“Good Grace” by Hillsong United

You know when you hear a song and all the hairs stand up on your head? This one.

Maybe it’s because I am feeling grateful beyond words that my friend and her family escaped disaster last week when their home caught fire. Maybe too, at the love they have been shown since. God is good. People are good. Life is good.

Still. Somebody needs this today.

If it’s not you, you know someone. Tell them.

So don’t let your heart be troubled
Hold your head up high
Don’t fear no evil
Fix your eyes on this one truth
God is madly in love with you
So take courage
Hold on
Be strong
Remember where our help comes from

Play it LOUD friends. Love is all around us.

All the Devils are Here

The idea of Satan used to be unpalatable to me.

He felt mythological, fairy tale-ish. A way to scare children.

But that was when I wasn’t such a good listener.

Since I have tried to let God be the Alpha Dog in my life, the existence of dynamic evil is something I can’t ignore. At the risk of sounding all Jonathan Edwards, I need to share this story.

I have a colleague who has been a successful realtor for 16 years. The last few months have been dry, which is normal for the market—buyers and sellers tend to hibernate for the winter—but in a smaller town with 1200 agents, those months can be long and dark and start to feel like there will never be customers again.

Like any good veteran agent, in the meantime, she has taken advantage of the classes our brokerage offers on marketing and social media and farming and what not. She could probably teach the classes, but she knows that there is always something new to learn.

So she picked a farming strategy for her favorite neighborhood and sent a letter out, introducing herself and talking about the market. Her letter was light and kind and full of experience, because that’s the kind of agent she is.

She sent out 500 letters.

This week she got one back.

It came from a man named Clint in Nevada. By his perfect cursive, I will guess he is in his 70s or 80s and at some point in his elementary years, was taught by the good sisters at a Catholic school.

I can tell you though, the only thing he learned from those sisters was handwriting.

Clint took it upon himself to copy her letter, correct it like he knew what he was talking about, and send it back to her with this charming note at the bottom:

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It crushed her.

“I have great faith”, she told me in tears, “and I have prayed and prayed and asked God if this is what I should be doing and promised to follow His plan. Every time I think I’m going to do something else, I feel that I should stick with it. And then this happens. What kind of a person does this?”

The fact that her letter fell into the hands of a nasty old man in Nevada who was so bent on hurting someone that he copied the letter, corrected it and mailed it back to her in Oregon says that this is more than coincidence.

For one hard, tear-filled hour this morning, she was filled with doubt and hurt. Those feelings tried to teach her a lesson about the world, that people are mean and selfish, and she should pack it up and go home because the world is a nasty place. That also is not coincidence. That is what Clint meant her to feel.

Satan works in big ways, like despots and starving babies and chemical weapons.

But he also works all the time to steal the joy, faith and love right out of our hearts, and he uses people like Clint to do it.

Luckily, there is a large contingent of faithful women at our brokerage and one by one, after hearing the story, we said the same thing to her: “That letter is Satan trying to derail you. Don’t let him.”

She didn’t.

She made the changes to her letter that Clint suggested.

Then she copied that sucker and sent out 100 more letters.

 

 

 

Every Day is Valentine’s Day

If you and I are friends on Facebook or if you follow me on Instagram, you are more than familiar with my #everydayisvalentinesday hashtag.  You see, one day, when I least expected it, love happened.

Tory and I first met in 1987, when I started junior high.  A few years later, we became closer friends during my freshman year, his junior year.  We were BFFs the next year, and in the time before email, My Space, and Facebook, we were pen pals when he went to college.  My senior year, I broke up with my boyfriend two days before prom, and Tory came back and took me.

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Then I went to college in Virginia, he started working full time and going to school, and after the summer of 1994, we kind of lost touch.

Fast forward 21 years to 2015, we reconnected.  We had both split from our spouses, and we both had children.  We met for lunch one day, only expecting to catch up with an old friend, but we soon realized that there was much more to our unfinished story.

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Having a relationship that is based in this deep friendship, caring, and genuine love for each other (you should read what I wrote in his yearbook senior year.  #humiliating.) is amazing.  We love each other’s family, and we love each other’s children as our own.  When we started posting pictures on social media, all of our friends from back in high school were so happy for us.  And soon, #everydayisvalentinesday was born.  Pictures graced our feeds from restaurants, Christmas parties, the beach, volleyball games, Angel games, Disneyland.  Jen told me once that it’s like we’re living in our twenties again.  And you know what, it is.  Christmas Eve is even Valentine’s Day.

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But before I continue to gush, let me be clear.  We are not perfect.  Life is also tough.  We both have major things in our past that affect our everyday lives.  We cry.  And bleed.  And our hearts break.  Through custody battles, court dates, money issues, going back to work, we have made a pact:  we will get through it…. together.

Now, in my 40s, I don’t want what Valentine’s Day means for most people:  big gestures professing one’s love, on one day of the year.  The #everydayisvalentinesday that is in my life now is the feeling that is supposed to lie beneath all those flowers and chocolates and fancy necklaces.  I don’t want the prince in the shining castle.  No, give me the farmer who smells like the earth, works his fingers to the bone, and has the scars to prove it.  Tory is Ride or Die.  And I will Ride or Die for him.  He is devoted to me in a way that I have never experienced before.  Our Valentine’s Days are filled with electrical work on the house, with sewing curtains for our kitchen. Valentine’s Days are when we’re sick and lie on the couch.  They are days when we meet our parents for breakfast then shop at Costco.

One #everydayisvalentinesday we even got married.

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Our Valentine’s Days celebrate our accomplishments, but they are also when we lose our battles.  Because when you let go of ego, when you are honest not only with your partner, but with yourself, when you bear your soul, and when your partner does the same, #lovewins and #everydayisvalentinesday.

River Rule

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Last week, I went on a retreat.

I can’t tell you much about it because of the River Rule, which is the very coolest thing ever. So I’m going to tell you about the River Rule itself instead.

There’s a village on the banks of the Zambezi river where (the story goes) once a year all the women of the village get into boats and pole themselves gracefully across the currents to an island. The island is sacred and holy space, far from the banks of the village, protected by the waters of the mother river.

Once the women step foot from the boats to the land, the River Rule is invoked. Nothing that is said or done or felt on the island can be communicated to anyone ever. And no judgement is allowed. It is a place for truth, hard ones and easy ones and funny ones. And we know truth can mostly only live where there is safety.

It is a privilege among the women of the village to uphold the honor of the Rule. It is a gift they give themselves and each other, once a year, to honor the challenges, heartbreaks and joys of their lives as women.

Are you like me and you didn’t know how much you needed that until someone said it out loud?

I forge ahead in truth most of the time anyway and try not to count the cost. I told my mom just last night that so often when I speak about my postpartum breakdown, I see the fruit of it almost immediately in the women who reach out for help or fellowship. But there’s always a small part of me that worries about having that much truth, even truth that has proven so helpful to others, floating around out there.

To know that I am being heard and not judged and that everyone around me is striving to understand me with love and prayer in their hearts?

You guys, it’s a gift beyond explaining.

The River Rule is not unique to the retreat I attended. In fact, it appears in the Urban Dictionary, sans the village story, as a way of saying “This needs to stay right here between us”.

So I have two things:

If you’ve been feeling called to a women’s retreat, consider this your answer from God, that yes, you should go. Just go.

And think about instituting a River Rule with your friends. It’s a gift that can push friendship to sacred sisterhood.

 

Election Day

 

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Here we are.

I voted and you voted and lots and lots of people have voted. Democracy has run its course.

But I kind of feel like the teenager who crashed the car and then tried to cover up the big dent in the fender. It’s an exercise in futility. We can’t hide the damage.

And we did it. We let it get to this place even though we know better, and are called to better. We’re complicit.

What do we really wake up to tomorrow? Wounds. Mistrust. Faithlessness. They are the elephants, and donkeys, in the room and they are hungry.

What are we going to feed them?

Two weeks ago, I went to Walgreens. I had just said to my brother “When I know that people are going to vote for that candidate, I feel like it tells me something about them. Something flawed. Something false. Something damaging.”

And then I parked next to a car with bumper stickers for that candidate all over it. I had seen it before, in the parking lot at church. Great, I thought. Hope I don’t know them.

But as I was standing in front of the cold remedies, a sweet voice said “Jen?” I turned and it was a woman I know well, a woman I have prayed with, a woman who hugged me hello. It hit me that it was her car.

Sh*t.

That is what I thought, I swear to goodness.

Then I was ashamed. What am I doing?

This election has not been our best moment. We have damaged ourselves as Americans, as people of faith, as a light shining in the darkness. The false prophets and kingdom builders have been exposed as the charlatans they are.

And we can either carry on as we have, self-serving and self-righteous, feeding what we want to hear and be.

Or we can decide that this was our wake-up call, and feed what we need to hear and be.

I’ll see you tomorrow.