In This House: One Small Step to Reconcile My Peaceful Inside with the Raging Outside

I wake up and it is peaceful in my little world. Sun streams through kitchen windows, birds chatter, joggers huff past and cars rattle by. Folks headed somewhere. To where? I suppose I really don’t care, because right now it is peaceful and quiet in my world.

Music lofts high in the background. Coffee steeps. Ever-growing children breathe soft, even breaths as rays attempt to squeeze past tightly closed shades.

I like this world. The one where four walls encapsulate all I hold dear. My hopes and dreams find life and safety here. 

But just outside, around the bend, in the neighboring county or in “some other place” I hear whispers and rumors of something far less serene. Whispers turned cries of injustice and shouts of distrust.

Images flash like lightning, of killings, thunderous stories of murder. I’m not sure I totally understand the difference because either way you slice it, mamas, wives and girlfriends grieve and men are dead. 

Black men. Dead.

Police officers. Dead.

And all for what? My mind is mud. All I can conjure are fuzzy thoughts of heated arguments, misunderstanding, highly charged emotions unleashed into an atmosphere of anger and fear.

My heart loses footing, my chest constricts and I am struck dumb.

These recent deaths tip my thoughts into an abyss that swirls with senseless violence, mass shootings, refugees running for their lives, knocking on doors begging someone, anyone to take them in. One story threaded to the next. 

I don’t know how to reconcile the hostile outside with my peaceful inside. 

I don’t know if I even want to. Can we just stay here forever? In this house, arguments and emotions rise, but eventually fall again because we know each other. We trust each other. We love each other. At the end of the day, we don’t fear a wild hand or rogue bullet. 

The African man-child that looks down at me these days might bristle for a moment under a corrective word, but ultimately circles back around with a smile and a kiss on the cheek. We have worked hard and loved much to convince him he is safe. In this house. 

His hopes and dreams find sacred breath. In this house, there is no need to fear.

But just outside these walls, I am told this may not be the case. Social media bleeds death and destruction down my screen. Tears of grief and outrage beg to be understood. To be seen, recognized and held. 

People say we need to talk. We can’t just sit idly by. We need to say something, do something….

But what??

I’m a white mama raising two African-born kids. Culture tells me I’m at a distinct disadvantage. My white privilege prevents me from really knowing how do this thing. For some reason I get the feeling that I need to protect the “he” more than the “she” in our family. Is that true? Is my son more susceptible to judgment and violence than my daughter? Will she skate by unscathed because of her sweet little face and pixie-like frame? Because she’s a girl?

What do I do?

I start in the only place I really know. I start with the basics — for all my kids. With a core curriculum of love, respect and kindness. With a basic belief that all of these are inalienable human rights both inside and outside our home. That in all things we seek to understand before clamoring to be understood.

What, if anything, can I do to make this world a better, safer, more loving place? I suspect this is the question mamas have been asking since the dawn of time.

Do I check out more books from the library? Watch more viral videos? Analyze more hashtags? Listen and engage in more inter-racial relationships and conversations? Fall to my knees and pray? 

I believe the answer is — yes.

But that yes cannot overwhelm. Because if it does, I too am sunk. I must put one foot in front of the other and take one step at a time.

I hug harder and love deeper than I ever have before. I cry out to the God of the Universe, to Jesus who hung on the cross, who himself was murdered and left for dead, to the one who descended into hell and rose again to sit at the right hand of the Father. I cry out to Him for justice and mercy and peace and understanding. 

When my mind whirls and twirls with more questions than answers, I often unload on my sweet husband. What do we do? I say. How do we engage?  My eyes get wild and thoughts frenetic. In all his wisdom, he says, the first thing you need to do is start writing.

So that’s what I’m doing. One thought, one feeling at a time, I write. There are no tidy bows in this scenario. Only a woman writing in pencil. Knowing circumstances change in the blink of an eye, I write and rewrite because I know this is only the tip of the iceberg. The reality is that we are white parents raising black children and white children. Lots to learn and much to lay at the foot of the cross. 

I believe some sort of spiritual healing comes in the kneading of the dough, of the process and the asking of questions of the Lord and of my fellow human family. As the leaven rises so does something inside of me. So I knead on in hopes that some semblance of wisdom and direction will take shape. 

Christina’s Take:

I’ve just been aching to hear words like these, Megan.

I, too, am left feeling inept, confused, and also silent about the latest round of tragedies happening outside my little safety zone. Maybe our lives involve so much of a sense of control (money, time, community, news feed etc) that when these civil rights and gun control matters surface with tons of opinions and few concrete actions to solve, we are just paralyzed, But we live in a world where the control we have is such a facade. I am grateful that you were able to put words to a reality in our time. And I love your African-male child – he is complex enough as it is without the world making his life even more complex. No tidy bows. But thankful for this reminder today.

Holly’s Take:

I feel completely unequipped to raise our little African ball of spirit. I can still barely do her hair, let alone try to infuse her with doctrine on being black in a white family and community. When we pass by an African American family, she will lose her way, as she stares and wonders. I see it on her face. I’m sad for her. I’m positive I’m part of the problem here. I see the images and hear the stories of black police men being shot, or black men being killed by cops. I’m mad, but it doesn’t feel as personal as it should.  I pretty much forget that Macie is black. That she could be a target of some kind, someday. I don’t want my naivety to hurt her, but I really don’t even know where to begin. What are the conversations that people are having?  Do we have different conversations with our white kids verses our African kids? Probably not, but they will hear what we say from a different point of view, I bet.  I can’t believe that it was such a short time ago that Rosa Parks sat on that bus. I can’t imagine raising a little African just a few decades ago.  Wow!  Strange to think about!

Did Someone Order a Sandwich? (The new normal of raising children while caring for an aging parent)

I try to keep the tone of my voice soft when I answer all the questions: 

How’s your mom doing?

What does the future look like for her?

Is she managing well at the new place?

Does she miss your dad?

What can I do to help?

 Mom in front of one of her paintings at an art exhibit  
Mom in front of one of her paintings at an art exhibit  

I keep my voice soft because how can I really know the answers? So I do my best to be patient, not freak out, and answer. all. the. questions.

Mind you, it’s not that all the questions bother me. I love how surrounded she is by her people. These people are part of this story of hers as it unfolds. It’s just that, while answering questions about her well-being, I sometimes sound more resolute than I feel.

I’m sad about all the events of the past few years; (the massive stroke that affected the entire left side of my mom’s body, her ensuing coma, life-support, brain damage, the slow slow daily march toward recovery, and the loss of her husband to a quick and surprising cancer.)

I’m sad for her, but if I’m honest <cringe>, I’m most sorrowful for myself, my siblings. Caregiving would never have been listed as one of my strengths, bedside manner never my forte. And I’m sadder still that I am doomed to the task of examining my motives for every helpful action, every work of service. Am I helping so I can be a good daughter or to feel better about myself? In truth it’s a mix of motives and desires – some pure and some full of…well…myself.

 My mom with a sampling of her 7 grandkids  
My mom with a sampling of her 7 grandkids  

This is part of being in that sandwich generation, enviable label that it is, which simply refers to those who take care of an aging loved one while still taking care of children in the home. Generation X is now the predominant demographic in the sandwich generation. Here’s a good article about it.

As my siblings and I navigate this role of parenting both kids and parent, the goal is to be sensitive to all of it – to ascertain the overlap in concentric circles between what she needs and what she wants, what my kids need and what they want. This takes lots of conversation, plenty of intuition, loads of nuance and above all, an active prayer life that guides the whole deal.

I was listening to a podcast today that stunned me. Bo Stern is a mom, a wife, daughter and employee (everything we all are) but she is navigating that darkly lit path of ALS. She lost her husband due to this terrible disease. As she speaks about his swirl of illness, decline, and her load of care – she speaks with a calm, soft, voice, too – with bomb dropping thoughts like this:

“God doesn’t work everything out, but He won’t waste anything. And so, hard things in good people’s lives will never be wasted. They’ll never go to waste. They’ll always be used for His glory and not our joy. They just always will.”


“…the stuff that really is God’s favor comes in our deepest moment, our darkest time, when we see an angle of His character we’ve never seen before, because we only need Him as much as we need Him. And I really need Him.”

Oh my.

Do you hear that?

It’s the sound of peace…

And the only way she got to that peace is via trial in the midst of a living, breathing, I-talk-to-you-everyday kind of communion with Jesus. 

What does that mean for you and me? Because mark my words, when difficult things happen in our lives, well-meaning, lovely people are going to ask you all the questions. What do you say? How do you react?

In that moment, you have a choice to make, don’t you? Are you going to let the questions rattle you? Jar you into wonder and worry? Or maybe you could tap into that peace? What if you leaned into that place of release….it will help you react in love and tenderness.  But feel free to stomp your feet and have a tantrum or two first. It’s okay.

Just so this whole thing isn’t uber sad and gloomy, can I just tell you that Assisted Living dynamics are AMAZING?! It’s like college all over again but with more arthritis.

Like when Mom’s “man-friend” comes a-calling every day so that he can have a “special hug.” Bless it.

And the fact that Mom has developed a new affinity for sweets (particularly oatmeal cookies and Rocky Road ice cream).

And you have never seen more intense competition than these folks using a flyswatter to whack a balloon across the room in their weekly Flyswatter Volleyball tournament! 

Are we at summer camp with boy crushes and snack shacks? NOPE! (But sometimes I can’t tell the difference).

So back to all the lovelies who ask all the questions…thanks for wanting to know…I’m grateful that you don’t shy away from hearing about mom’s new normal life. What a gracious gift you offer: willing to step into the hard. I will never stop being grateful for that – I’ll SHOUT that one from the mountain top.

 Megan’s Take: 

I seriously LOVE the way you write. I’m left chuckling in the midst of super tender emotions.

“How are you (let alone anyone else) doing” — is a super loaded question. One that often changes as quickly as the Kardashians. I love that you allow the fluidity and perplexing nature of such a journey to take its own pace. You are engaging in the hard and the entertaining. Good on ya, sister!! I have a feeling I’ll be leaning on you as I someday navigate my own sandwich. And we have already drafted the kids that are on point to massage our aging feet. It will remain a secret, but I’m guessing it wouldn’t be too hard to figure out! #loveandfriendship

Holly’s Take:

I just hope my kids are as good at care taking as you, when I’m playing, “Flyswatter Volleyball.” I haven’t ever lived in any other time period and I’ve never lived in any other foreign countries, but it seems like in other times and places, there is more of a tradition of caring for your aging parents. We talk more about boundaries for ourselves and for our immediate family, then about going into the really hard places of taking care of ailing family members.  I’m totally FOR boundaries and not getting so exhausted that you are rotten for everyone around. So, how do you have boundaries and keep the right balance of giving and self preservation, all while caring for an aging parent or a sick loved one. I sure don’t know the answer and I’m sure it would look different for each person and each situation.       


Do You Long to Connect the Puzzle Pieces of Your Story?

Twenty five years. Give or take.

That’s how long I’ve been waiting to see some key pieces in the puzzle of “my story” come together. Oh what fun it has been to lock a few into place!

Let me give you some context…

Summer 1991: Small town girl graduates high school and decides not to go straight to college or work like everyone else. She chooses instead, a “gap year.” I’m not even sure that phrase was a thing at that time, but as I understand it that’s what it was. I pack my bags (super-sized, I’m sure, unfortunately not much has changed) and head to the Basque country to spend a year as a foreign exchange student. (That’s in Northern Spain if you’re wondering. I had to look it up at the time, too.)

Man, describing and processing that year could not only be a whole other blog post, maybe I could even turn it into a YA novel!! Writing the subsequent screenplay in my head. Hmmmmm?? Let’s put a pin in that one.

Summer 1992: One year later, I am a completely different person. Broken. Remolded. Changed for the better to be sure.

God had SO MUCH work to do in me and I am forever grateful for the year of transformation. Not the least of which is the fact that I walked away knowing Spanish. ‘Castellano’ if you will. (I spent a lot of time ‘undoing’ that lisp because when I got back to the States and decided to major in Spanish, I felt pretty presumptuous saying things like ‘gra-th-ias’ and ‘por shupuesto’. That stuff definitely solicited eye rolls.)

Summer 1996: I am officially a married, college graduate with a BA in Romance Languages. (I know, right?! Beyond fun.) However, the $25,000 question on everyone’s lips was the same, “That’s a neat major, but what are you going to DO with it? Do you want to be a teacher?” 

The sad part is, I never conjured up a respectable answer. I didn’t want to be a foreign language teacher, or a translator, or an ex-pat missionary.  

Consequently, I bounced around from entry-level, low paying job to entry-level, low-paying job garnering low level vocational depression in the process. So, I ended up doing what most private, liberal arts school students do — I went to grad school.

Summer 2003: I land my ‘dream job’ as a high school guidance counselor.

I work in that field. I have babies. I stop working. I raise babies. I go back to work when they hit grade school. I quit that job. I feel the call to adopt and basically go back to ‘raising babies.’ 

All the while I am supporting my husband in his Young Life ministry. We have always been and continue to be a team in life and family and vocation and calling.

Twenty five years of having this love and knowledge of the Spanish language. Lying dormant.

Twenty years on Young Life staff.

Never the two should meet. 


Summer 2016: An opening surfaces for a volunteer to chaperone our church youth group’s annual summer trip to the Dominican Republic to work at — wait for it — a Young Life camp!! I mean, can you even?? My heart skipped a beat. I took one look at my amazing hubby and he said, “Go for it!”

So I did.

Honestly, the whole week, I just kept pinching myself! It was like long-lost lovers being reunited. (See — I bet I could rock the YA novel. Smile.)

I love teenagers. I love Latin America. I love speaking (or at least attempting to speak!) Spanish. And I LOVE Young Life or ‘Vida Joven’ as they call it. I just kept smiling at the God who sees. 

Of course there were other moments. Spiritual connections. Relationships built. Dances danced. Concrete mixed. Heatstroke threatening to take me down. A trip to the local ER after a sea urchin sting (not me but one of our sweet teenage girls). Yes. Lots of moments. And I will likely unpack a few of those in a future post, but for now, this is what sits at the top of the list. 

Do you have any funky, misshapen puzzle pieces that just don’t seem to fit? If so, what do you long to see? How might God be doing something even now to connect those parts and pieces of your story?

Holly’s Take:

You are not going to believe this, but I just finished up a few minutes of learning Spanish on Rosetta Stone. My kids are going to be going to a Spanish immersion school, so I figured I better learn a little something before they start speaking Spanish at home and I feel left out. I hope I really do this. I hope I get a chance to use it, too, like you just got to! Me gusta that you know Spanish. Me gusta that you love teenagers. Me gusta that you went on this trip even without any other Nilsens represented. And me gusta YOU! 

Christina’s Take: 

I’m emotional about this post for 2 reasons: 

1) You talk about the God who sees. It might take 25 years and the timing might never match our own preference but no puzzle piece lacks its’ home. This gives me more courage to hope for what he sees in my own funky puzzle.  

2) I’m so grateful for your diligence in pursuing this gifting of yours because my son was on this trip, too! Friends, I cannot overstate the value of having a trusted “mole” on your teenager’s international mission trip. It’s been so fun to process the “what” and the “why” of this trip with both my son and my amazing, bilingual, teenager-loving, servant-hearted pal!!

A Father Here, A Father in Heaven, And a Heavenly Father

My kids are pretty excited about Father’s Day. They have made cards, written notes, and painted random things on felt that somehow translate into meanings of love for Tony. I haven’t picked up on any extra longings for Dave as Father’s Day approaches. I, of course, never know what to do.  Do I do something special related to Dave and make sure that they remember him?  Do I just let them lead?  Do I make sure to encourage their relationship with Tony as their dad, by not doing anything special related to Dave?  Do I just hope the day passes without any emotional meltdowns?  (That ship as already sailed for me). I just don’t always know what to do. It is difficult to honor Dave and honor Tony, at the same exact time, on the same exact day. Actually, in my mind, it is easy to do that, but there are a lot of feeling and emotions that swirl on days like these for me, Tony and the kids, so it just doesn’t typically turn out the way I wish it would.  

 Do you think Spencer is a fan of Tony or what?  
Do you think Spencer is a fan of Tony or what?  
 Macie's cache of Father's Day creations.
Macie’s cache of Father’s Day creations.

This post has taken so much longer to write than my typical post.  I have been sitting here writing and rewriting, which is not like me at all. I continue to write and then have a little check in my spirit that says, nope.  This is not where it is at, Holly.  I know that I am incapable of making things sound better than they are, so I can’t do that, but I also know the power of the Holy Spirit, so nothing is hopeless or so complicated that God can’t find a way. My own fleshly spirit feels very critical and self pitying this morning.  I continue to want easy and uncomplicated. So, as I sat here trying to write critically in a gentle and cryptic way, the answer came again. It is the same answer over and over and over again.  Grace.  Until me and Tony let these days and every day just be fully washed in grace, we will never be able to experience freedom and true celebration and true redemption. I can see it in the last sentence of the first paragraph.  I seriously think that I can orchestrate a day that would be perfect.  Who am I kidding? I can’t do that!  



So, I’m keeping this post short, to not allow my critical spirit back into play here. Instead, I’ll leave you with what I think is a powerful truth. Last Sunday, I heard a story from three different adults (with tears in their eyes) who were with Spencer and Braden at Camp Elim. Evidently, there is a night around the campfire where kids share what God has been teaching them or something along those lines. Spencer, was the second person to get up and talk. What he said was, “My biological dad died a few years ago, but God has provided me with a new dad and new brothers.” And there it is . . . “BUT GOD . . . “  I wonder how many “BUT GOD’S,” there are in the Bible, like the one in Genesis 50:20 – “You intended to harm me, BUT GOD intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.” How is it that my sweet son is such an anchor for this family and yet he has no idea?


 Beau, Spencer, Ari and Braden getting ready for some fun at Camp Elim!
Beau, Spencer, Ari and Braden getting ready for some fun at Camp Elim!


Christina’s Take:  

That Spencer…God has continued carving reservoirs of wisdom into his little soul day by day. Isaiah 30:18 paints this picture of God reaching out to be gracious to us when we are in relationship with Him – and I see that in Spencer. The pain and loss that Spencer is experiencing is not wasted…it has become a testimony to others of God’s power.  

And wow – if we can glean inspiration from our children about how to walk this road of faith…unbelievably humbling. 

I love your family and all that you teach us as you live life together.

And Tony: Happy Father’s Day!! You’re a wonderful, hardworking daddy.

Megan’s Take

I’m sitting here attempting to share my take on my phone with spotty wifi at the end of a mission trip with high schoolers in the Dominican Republic. Pretty surreal to be a world away, experiencing something totally different and yet the miracle of wifi keeps us connected!  Crazy. 

I’ve spent the last week in a country where 95% of households are broken. Meaning, it is EXTREMELY rare to find an original set of married parents. Kids are growing up, often in dangerous and fractured places. It is astounding to watch the Young Life (Vida Joven) leaders come alongside these kids and show them the very tangible, desperately needed love of a father, both earthly and heavenly. 

The numbers of kids coming to Christ is astounding! They are ready to receive the love of the Father. I pray their faith, as well as that of sweet Spencer, will inspire me/us to continue to press into that love and receive it as the gift it is!! 




How the words “Dear Diary” changed the world

I had one of those naggy afternoons recently. You know the ones: trying to rally the whole family to dress up. We must find nice outfits, iron shirts, bust out the necktie, somehow create a clean, put-together image of our family in order to head to my cousin’s house one weekday afternoon.

And as we walked into my cousin’s lovely home, we heard the familiar banter and prattle of a warm family gathering. My kids stayed close to me at first as we began to greet family members. I noticed pretty quickly that there were people there I didn’t know, a group that had been invited but wasn’t family, per se.

One of my kids inquired:

“Hey, mom, who’s that old man over there?”

My eyes traveled to where he was looking and saw a cuff-linked, tall and handsome older gentleman. And it was precisely in that world transporting instant that all the nagging and ironing and “polishing” and “propering” of the morning started to fade away…

For in that room stood Alfred Lakos.

This was the man who had been hidden in my great grandmother’s apartment for over 4 months as a little boy during the Nazi occupation of war torn Buda Pest.

Standing right there.

History and worlds coming together.

Back in the 1940’s, my great grandmother, a fiercely independent, physician and divorcee decided to help her best friend and her best friend’s nephew hide away from likely transport to a concentration camp and almost certain death. It wasn’t a decision so much as just the next action to take in a terrible and confusing point in history. The Washington Post ran an article in November 2014 that explains the situation better than I can.

And during the entire season, she wrote in her journal. Day by day she kept an account of the news, the rumors and the actuality as seen out her apartment window.

 Maria Madi
Maria Madi

These diaries (16 in all averaging 150 pages a piece) are a salient interpretation of the political and war-torn climate of World War II. And though she was Hungarian, she wrote every word in perfect English. For many years the diaries sat in storage collecting dust and fading from legacy’s view.

But through the persistent and strategic work of my uncle, the diaries are now housed in the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. where they will be archived permanently.

When word got out about these diaries her situation was explained to the Yad Vashem, the holocaust memorial in Israel and she was nominated for and received the medal of honor designating her as “Righteous Among the Nations.”

And it was for this awards ceremony that we dressed up in all of our rare finery. We, along with many family members and the Alfred Lakos family, attended a beautiful and thoughtful remembrance of the holocaust and its survivors.

 My mother and Alfred Lakos
My mother and Alfred Lakos

At the end of that momentous day as we threw our finery into the dirty clothes bin, I reflected that an extraordinary legacy like my great grandmother’s would not exist without moments of utter impossibility.

My mom tells me that Maria (her grandmother) told her there was only one time when she was ever really afraid. The German soldiers were invading her town, her home which contained 2 jews hidden behind a mirror. And she was truly afraid. The soldier came close to her, too close, touched her, touched some of her things, turned around and left. Impossible.

But let’s face it, my great grandmother didn’t commit heroic acts of bravery so that I could write this today. She lived her life. She took the next correct action that faced her…and with enough of these choices, she created a woven tapestry of grit, intrigue, and heart.

Impossible moments leading to a great story.  A humbling legacy into which I somehow have been included. I don’t know what to do or how to do it but I think it looks a lot like doing the next right thing one day at a time.

Blessings to you as you work to be brave in your own way today.

Holly’s Take:

I have to wonder how much of her bravery got passed down to you, Christina.  I mean, someone doesn’t participate in a war like that without their character and core being strengthened and changed in many different ways.  Her character was then passed down and down. I wonder what you unknowingly have received directly from her act of hiding Jews. Your independence? Your grit? Your compassion? And then what is passed on to Audrey and Jack from you?  Crazy to think about in hindsight, huh?  You have some amazing stories in your family and I think those stories will continue on with you!

Megan’s Take:

I seriously have goose bumps. The profound act of “doing the next right thing” changed an entire family line! Alfred Lakos and his lineage simply would not be alive today if it weren’t for Maria. I’m just sure of it. That is no small thing. Not to mention, Maria was a bad-ass. A divorced female, Hungarian doctor, fluent in English in that era? Astounding. What a reminder that one person really can make a difference. I often doubt the transformational truth of that. This story helps me reevaluate what next “brave” thing I can do that may just change the course of history. At the very least, my own heart in the process.


Orphan Spirit vs. Child of God

“Maybe it would be better if I wasn’t here. I don’t really belong in this family.”

“Mommy do you see me? Do you notice me? Mooommmmy, looook!”

“I don’t need your help. Forget it! I can do it myself!”


These are words I’ve heard from my children time and again. To the naked eye, these amount to nothing more than normal kid banter. I mean, every kid says this kind of stuff, right?


One could argue these phrases color the normal path of growing up. Moving from dependence to independence. Childhood to adulthood. And of course, a well placed “nevermind” paired with the perfect eye roll is par for the course in any stage of puberty.

Yes. All kids do this.

But in my experience, the phrases and underlying context take on VASTLY different meanings depending on which of my children is speaking. The weight and myriad of layers encapsulated in the voice of my adopted children differs greatly from that of my biological kids. That’s just part of the deal. 

While adoption is a most beautiful gift, it is also a journey fundamentally born of abandonment and confusion. This reality proved inherently true when we brought your two youngest home from Ethiopia 4.5 years ago. 

In the fragility of those early days, Kelel and Senait were, for all intents and purposes, Nilsens in name only. Their identities — who they thought they were, who they believed themselves to be — had been compromised. Although their passports read “Nilsen,” their hearts did not.

Who could blame them?? The adoption, the coming together of our family, was the bi-product of a broken world, broken bodies, broken economies and a broken system…By all accounts, their identity crisis made total sense given the trauma they had experienced. In a matter of moments, one single stroke of a judge’s pen turned complete strangers into family, signifying we were one. They were our children, heirs to all that we are and all that we have, but they could not, and would not receive it.

At least, not in its full form.

There have been times the reality of this disconnect has been beyond painful and other moments where it’s just a general mood in the air. Regardless of how it plays out in any given moment, however, I have been fascinated by the concept of what it looks like to live from an “orphan spirit” or as a “child of God.”

Although I personally am not adopted in the physical sense, I am adopted in the spiritual sense, through the blood of Jesus Christ.

In Galatians 4, Paul tells us that God sent Jesus to “buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children. And because we ‘Gentiles’ have become his children, God sent the Spirit of his Son into [our] hearts, and now [we] can call God [our] dear Father.” 

We are no longer spiritual orphans, but God’s own sons and daughters! Chosen and dearly loved! Belonging to His family. 

So why in the Sam-darn-it-all-to-heck don’t I always act like a chosen, beloved, apple-of-his-eye kind of child?? Why do I kick against the goads and continually question my own identity and worth? If I truly believed and lived into the truth of who God says I am instead of believing filthy lies, well, that would change everything. I know this to be indomitably true because I have a front row seat as I watch it play out in my own home (both physically and spiritually).

If it’s true in the physical sense, it stands to reason the same thing would play out spiritually as well.

Am I a child of God only on paper, checking off all the proverbial Christian boxes?? Or am I a child of God in my heart, mind, body and soul? Because, there IS a difference! A big one at that.

I heard a sermon a while back that rocked my world to no end. My heart beat out of my chest as I heard the pastor describe in no uncertain terms what it looks like to live from an orphan spirit vs. as a child of God. Here’s the idea:

The Orphan: Operates FOR favor

** Key Paradigm: What must I do to earn your love? What will it take to get you to love me?

The Child: Operates FROM favor

** Key Paradigm: I can live in freedom and peace in my true self, unafraid to make mistakes because I already know I am unconditionally loved.

The Orphan: Operates with Low Trust & High Need for Control

** Key Paradigm: I don’t know if I can trust you or anyone else, so I’ll go ahead and micro-manage my private world. Thank you very little.

The Child: Operates with High Trust & Low Need for Control

** Key Paradigm: I am willing to be vulnerable and let you into my world (warts and all) because I trust your heart. I’ll share my hopes and dreams knowing you have my best interest in mind.

Turns out that processing my thoughts, emotions and behaviors through this filter radically revolutionizes my days. When my teeth clench and my knuckles turn white, I know I have fallen prey to the orphan spirit. A spirit shrouded in control, anxiety and fear. That is not how I want to live. And that is definitely not what brings true life.

Yes, trauma will continue to rear its ugly head. It will show up unannounced at any hour of the day or night, but I pray as we journey from here, we can learn to trust the God who created our inner-most being, the God who wove us together in our mother’s womb. We may or may not be able to trust that mother (that is something to work out along the way), but we sure can trust HIM.

Because He is so very good and often beyond-our-wildest-dreams surprising!

In what ways do you find it difficult to trust God? How can you shift from operating as an orphan to operating as a beloved child?

Christina’s Take: 

Operating FROM favor. Such a piercing challenge to remember, remember, and remember again that I am His. I think I have a difficult time trusting God because I think I am so capable. In essence, I don’t trust God because I trust myself.…yeah, me…the one who has proven again and again to NOT be trustworthy in just about every area. And that operating shift is a huge deal. I think in my life it looks a lot like a shift towards operating FROM favor and then away from it and then perhaps closer to that non-orphan operation system the next time. It’s shifts, and starts, and reversals and everything in between. 

Holly’s Take:

It’s like you have two posts here. One about the day to day, standing in the kitchen, kids everywhere, orphan spirit, which I can relate to with every bone in my body.  And then there is the spiritual orphan, who is me.  I can clearly identify with scenario number 1.  And I always think that I can’t relate to scenario number two, with me being the orphan until the very second that another unexpected circumstance pops up.  Then there is anxiety and worry and trustlessness (I’m pretty sure that is not a word, but it is now).  I always think I’m doing better and that I’m more trusting and living more out of freedom than fear, but then things happen and I go back to my normal M. O. I seriously do think that someday, I will be different. 



180 days ago; End of School Year and Beginning of Summer

Just 180 days ago….I felt so…FRESH.

Life was coming alive with possibilities. The beginning of every school year feels like that to me. My little cherubs were going to set all the records, get all of the medals, earn all of the certificates. And so was I! I was going to cook breakfast every morning after a long workout. All those homemade breakfasts would include PRODUCE of some kind! And I would never bark out whose chore is whose – not even once. I was going to be a model employee with clothes clean and with nary an error on any project ever.

And now…just 180 days later…

I haven’t looked at a Friday folder since Spring Break. We’re throwing every tail end of every box of crackers and withered grape cluster in lunches. We’re duct taping uniforms together. We’re shuffling our way through the dog hair toward the car every morning. The kids are signing their own permission slips. They’re telling their teachers we can’t drive for the field trip (and didn’t even need to ask us first…they just knew). Mom and dad are half-heartedly AT BEST asking how their day went. We’re tired of Ground-Hogs’-Day-ing it through the same drive, the same alarm clock, the same same same of the weekday grind.

Jen Hatmaker describes how we’re feeling so well when she says:

 I will never finish and turn it all in and get it to the (correct) Room Mom and get it all emailed and I am pretty sure the final week of school will never be over and this is the end for me.”

Let’s clink a glass to just barely eeking our way through the end of the 2015-2016 school year, shall we?

We’ve. Almost. Done. It. We’re close to the end. 

But wait. Isn’t this really just the beginning?

…Of 80-plus days of free time? In other words….10 weeks of:

* Do we swim? *Should we hike? * Where is sunscreen the cheapest? * Is (insert instrument or institution here) camp too expensive this year? * How do I manipulate my kids to read more (chick-fil-a coupons and shot-glass sized free Frosty’s aren’t cutting it anymore) * What if I have the nerve to work this summer? * What in the world will they do to pass the time if I’m not “managing” it for them? *

 Golden Gate Bridge during a rainy June. Such sincerity in those smiles...
Golden Gate Bridge during a rainy June. Such sincerity in those smiles…

Yep, 80ish days of that.

Are you ready for that, friends?

So we’re at a crossroads, would you agree?

Say goodbye to the school year #HALLELUJAH

and say hello to the summer #JESUSISURRENDER

So maybe it’s time for a shift in perspective.

If we’re between one thing and another – both with their own sets of challenges – maybe we could consider


What if freedom from “the list” for the day released us from obligation?

What if the checklist took a hiatus for all things unshackled?

Could I be free? Could I enjoy the quiet? Could I wave the white flag of surrender and actually treasure this new season?

Here’s my theory:

If I rid myself of the shoulds and oughts of “a busy summer”…..I win.

When my to-do list goes from action to presence, I’ll claim victory when the school year begins again. Really sitting in the “NOW” of time with my Bible in my lap and a kiddo to catch-up with nearby…now that has potential to be pretty sweet.

So I sit here contemplating freedom. True freedom feels like a risk to me. A challenge to let go. But it’s risk worth taking as summer commences…

Maybe truly living means examining life half-lived. I’m thinking of taking stock, and taking the plunge into the NOW of this life right here. 

After trying and failing to describe this to my friend Dale, she gave me a poem about “Presence” that seemed to SAY the THING I am FEELING:

“May warmth of heart keep your presence aflame.

May anxiety never linger about you.

May your outer dignity mirror an inner dignity of soul.”

-John O’Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us

Inner dignity of soul INDEED! I’m in for whatever that looks like. You? What’s your plan this summer?

Holly’s Take:

Right around Spring Break, I was dreading summer break. Having all five kids here during Spring Break was no picnic.  IT DID NOT GO WELL . . . AT ALL. The summer will be kinda like Spring Break, except for ten times as long. The bad news is that this could be a very hard summer. The good news is that we will have all five kids together long enough to maybe possibly see some changes?????  I feel semi-armed, as I have been reading and re-reading parenting books that make sense to me.  It is going to take some real trial and error, but at least there will be time to see what doesn’t work and, hopefully, what does work. In every single book and article I’ve read, there is one common theme, even if methods differ.  BE COOL!  It’s like that commercial from long, long ago.  “Never let them see you sweat.”  Or, like in Jen Hatmaker’s book, For the Love, “I AM ice cold Mother Teresa!”  There is no room for me to get emotionally wrapped into all the control battles that ramp up when all five are here. I do have them signed up for some pretty tiring activities (think swim team every morning), and we will be keeping to some sort of routine, if I can possibly manage that in my underdeveloped “type A” self. Overall, I am a looking forward to summer break a little bit now, but the expectation to enjoy the quiet is not to be found in my wheelhouse right now.    

Megan’s Take:

Oh my, lands! I am seriously laughing out loud and shedding a tear all at the same time. Changes in seasons ALWAYS send me into a bit of a tailspin. Just ask my husband. He’s rolling his eyes right now, I just know it. To be honest, I kind of “play along” when other moms say the “can’t wait for summer!” Yeah, me too. (???) I can’t WAIT for my sweet little cherubs to be around each other 24/7 — their constant bickering is like music to my ears. Somehow it feels easier to live (you might read “hide”) behind the busyness of the school year because I can manage busy. There’s always one more thing to do or another event to head off to…. But summer?  So much freedom kind of overwhelms me. And what about spare time to write and exercise? But I agree with you — if I can shift my perspective and look at the freedom of summer as something to be cherished and absorbed, well, there may just be a little light in this tunnel after all. (I especially like the part about “another glass of wine” and “long visits after dinner.” Yep. I’m in for that!!)

Listen, who am I kidding?! I like to have a pretty full summer. Not unbutton your pants stuffed with activities, but just enough to “take the edge off.” Summer school, a mommy-only trip to the Dominican Republic, a whole MONTH at a Young Life camp! Yep. I’d say that’ll just about get us to the first day of school. Cheers. 🙂


Moving. The Good, the Bad, the Beautiful!

I’m moving. I have known I would be moving for a long time, but the time is actually here. I will be leaving this house, this neighborhood, my neighborhood FRIENDS, and this place where I seriously, to the bottom of my heart, for reals, was convinced that I would finish the rest of my days.  I love everything about it, (minus the busy pot shop at the bottom of the hill). I love the school, the teachers, the views, the park that backs up to our house, our yard, the friendliness of everyone around, the hiking trails, MY HIKING FRIENDS and my house itself.  It is official! I’m not a changer!  I’m an “ultra sticker!!!!!”  I stick to one thing and go with it for as long as possible.

 My house when Dave and I first bought it.
My house when Dave and I first bought it.
 I'll miss this little park so much.
I’ll miss this little park so much.
 some of the hiking crew. 
some of the hiking crew. 
 All the millions of memories that have happened on this driveway.  Lemonade stands.  Learning to ride bikes.  Knocking teeth out.  sidewalk chalk race tracks.  
All the millions of memories that have happened on this driveway.  Lemonade stands.  Learning to ride bikes.  Knocking teeth out.  sidewalk chalk race tracks.  

For the longest time, I just pretended like I’m not moving. I feel like I’m betraying this neighborhood and all those in it who were so beyond gracious to our family after Dave died. (I know that is so self centered to think that anyone thinks that much about me moving, but I’m just pointing out how ridiculous I get about moving). The thought of going through my house and handling all of Dave’s things again and deciding what to save and store for the kids and what to let go of, feels overwhelming, to say the least. Leaving Dave’s tree we planted in the backyard is a topic of conversation among Spencer, Leah and Macie, lately.  And even fixing up this house and making the decision on whether to sell or rent this place, just feels all so UGH! And the list goes on. 

BUT . . . . . . . I was getting ready the other day, when, and I’m not kidding, the words, “New wine, goes in new wineskins,” came into my head. I don’t even know if I was thinking of moving before I heard those words, but I sure was thinking about it after I heard those words. It has really been a game changer for me. I went and read the passage in the Bible about this whole business.  

Matthew 9:16-17 – “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins.  If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

Maybe I’m just making nothing into something, but maybe, just maybe the Lord really did speak to me. It kind of feels like it. First, I feel like it gave me a bit of a warning against trying too hard to fit the new into the old, (because I’m an “ultra sticker”). Second, it has given me an excitement for the move that I didn’t have before.  Now, I have this sense, that over time, as we pour our family into new wineskins, He will create something intoxicating.  Maybe that is a weird word to use, but I mean it in a good way. 

 the demolition days.  
the demolition days.  
 It's really coming together!
It’s really coming together!
 I can't find any pictures of the outside of the house, but here is one of the front yard.
I can’t find any pictures of the outside of the house, but here is one of the front yard.

I know that in the parable above that Jesus is trying to teach the disciples that the Pharisees need to let go of the old way of thinking and the old traditions. That could not have been easy for those dedicated Pharisees to let go of what they felt was right and what they perfected and dedicated themselves to and for which they sacrificed, in the name of God, even!  There is obviously nothing wrong with remembering Dave and helping my kids to remember him, but I have to remember to balance that with honoring my new family and looking for all the hope in the new. I still don’t know exactly how to do that, (as evidenced by the fact that I still can’t quite full on change my last name across the board), but I feel like the change in my attitude towards moving may be a step in the right direction.

There truly is a lot to look forward to with this move.  The house is turning out (it was a remodel job) beautifully.  All the kids will be on the same floor and have their own rooms. We will have a big yard in the front. We have a little barn for chickens and potentially other animals. The neighbor across the street has five kids. The other neighbor across the street is a sweet widow and we cried with each other within about six seconds of meeting (I love emotional people). I think I’m pretty excited about the school they will be attending. It is close to the Shops at Briargate and Sprouts! We will be able to host visitors, host dinners, host parties, host Wyldlife and Younglife Clubs in the future. And Tony can make some great meals in our new kitchen!!!!!!  But more than any of those, I am excited to have this feeling or experience that God is saying “wait and see what I will do with your family in your new wineskins.”  BTW – This is the first that Tony is even hearing about any of this. For all he knows, I’m still not moving.  Although, he probably knows something is up, because I actually offered to help paint the trim in the new house over the last couple days.  It’s weird how I can write my feelings for hundreds of people, but it’s hard to talk about them with the ones that I’m the closest too.  Any other bloggers experience this?  Anyway, that is not the point of the post.  

Is there anywhere in your life where you feel like there are new wineskins waiting to be filled with new wine?    

Megan’s Take:  Oh my gosh! I seriously LOVE this post. It beautifully encapsulates the good and the hard about the path of life and the necessary (often hard) changes that come our way. Not to mention, the verse about “new wineskins” has been a “God-is-speaking-to-me-verse” ever since it came my way from a friend about three years ago. And you bring it up today! I know without a shadow of a doubt the Holy Spirit was speaking to you.

I’m sure the tears will flow as you turn off the lights and lock the front door on Crystal Hills, but I pray the intoxicating aroma of Christ envelops you as you tumble into the new home. Honestly, if we are constantly pushing into the new life that God has for us, we’ll probably need to be changing wineskins more than once! I pray for that awareness and vision today. We should always be looking for the new wine because it means we are transforming into the new creations Christ intended us to be. Hopefully it’s a smooth red Zin. Those are my favorite. (PS — Major shout out to hosting Young Life in your house! Not that I’m partial or anything.)

Christina’s Take: 

my favorite part of this post is the part where you talk about how many meals Tony is going to make at the new house. LOL. 

But seriously, I love that you have turned a bit of a corner here and have started to look forward to this new chapter in your life.

Change is hard. Change is SO hard. It is so difficult to picture something in the future that you don’t know about yet. And meanwhile you have all the great memories of the past.

All I know is you are not alone as you journey into the new. ..

and while I’m at it, I am requesting in advance a nice glass of red wine with a nice pasta dish perhaps – made by Tony, of course. 

Love to your whole crew with the new address! 

The Waiting Game: Making Peace With the Holy Hesitation

With four kids at home, the phrase “just a minute” has become my diatribe. I’m not necessarily proud of it, but there it is. 

“Murphy’s Law” around our house is that everyone seems perfectly independent until the stars align in some sort of cataclysmic ambush and everyone needs something from me all at once. Lots of needs. One Mommy. Impossible math.

Just yesterday, my feisty little 9-year-old wanted me to paint her nails. (I told her she couldn’t watch TV, so that meant she looked to me for stimulation. It’s the risk I run.) And she wanted them done immediately! The only problem was that she lost the privilege of doing them by herself due to a certain unsupervised nail polish incident on the bathroom floor. Think LOTS of rags reeking of acetone to clean up that mess. As such, she needed a house certified technician to complete the glamorous french manicure she envisioned. 

That meant she needed yours truly.

And of course I wasn’t lounging around looking for something to do (shocker) —  I was cooking dinner (admittedly another shocker).

“Mom, mom, mom…,” she jumped up and down next to the stove and shoved her nails in my face. “Are they dry yet?! Can you check?!”

“Honey, can you please wait? I’m cooking dinner. I’ll check them in a minute.” (Not sure I used such a sweet tone, but I prefer to remember it that way.)

“But, Moooooommmmmm! Pleeeeaaase! It will only take a minute. Can you just touch them and see if they’re dry? Seriously. It will only take a second!” (The timeframe was miraculously shrinking.)

“Just, please, wait until after dinner. I need to finish this and get your brother to Young Life. When I come home, we’ll eat and then I can give your nails all the attention they need. You’re just going to have to wait! Please don’t ask me again.”

“But, Mom! I promise, it will be sooooo fast….”

And so it went.

Truth be told, I can empathize with my little fashionista. When you desperately want something, waiting for it can feel like an all-out eternity, like someone removed the batteries from the kitchen wall clock and time as we know it has stopped like rush hour traffic. Like the thing might NEVER HAPPEN. We’ll never get to our intended destination. At least, not on time.

The funny thing about waiting is that it never really ends. As we grow up, our waiting just looks a little different. It may no longer be about getting your nails painted NOW! (Although if you saw my toenails you’d probably slap me $40 and send me on my way.)

For sure there are things we “wait” for that are fairly inconsequential — we wait for the show to start, the light to turn green, our turn at the check-out counter — but there are lots of other things we wait for that feel (and are) much more substantial. Like waiting for “Mr. Right” to come along, for that baby to arrive, for that kid to finally sleep through the night, for that adoption to happen, for that job to come through… Many of these things, require a passive wait. There isn’t much we can actually do to hasten the outcome.

However, when big things come our way that require we make a decision or a take specific action in order for them to come to fruition, how do we decide what to do?

Sometimes I feel things so clearly, like the Holy Spirit has given me a massive green light, whereas other times He imparts a “holy hesitation.” My flesh might want one thing, but the Spirit suggests another. 

In fact, just today I had to mentally wade through the process of whether to act or whether to wait. 

As a writer, I process MANY (perhaps too many) of my thoughts on paper — either in a private journal or on this blog for the whole world to read. Yesterday, I found myself writing down some thoughts in an effort to process something very tender to my heart. I drafted the whole thing in no time flat. The emotions were there and the words followed, but as I thought about whether to post it or not, I had a massive gut check. I could’ve easily said “screw the consequences” and hit “publish,” but I knew I had to take a step back, examine my heart, my motives and the potential fall out. I needed to WAIT.

I went through the mental check list: 

* Is this true? Yes.

* Is it encouraging? Maybe.

* Does it glorify God? I think so.

* Could it hurt someone else? Possibly.

So, rather than pull the trigger, I did what I often do. I asked my hubby to lay eyes on the words and give me his wisdom. He read it and immediately suggested I wait. Then I sent it to my WIP girls. What did they think? Believe it or not, the three of us don’t always agree on everything 100%. I initially got mixed reviews from them, but at the end of the day, I knew the answer. Wait. 

Perhaps this was something I needed to write for me — a post that, for now, is something between me and the Lord. And, of course, the three wise peeps.

In this instance I trust the “holy hesitation” is worth listening to. Despite my lack of desire, I’m summoning the spirit of self-control. I’m trusting that if I wait for the proper timing, the Lord will give me something even better, more uplifting, better thought out…

The idea of waiting has now morphed into something that is less of a “bad word” and more of a realization that sometimes I’m not ready for what’s on the other side. Waiting encapsulates a time and space the Lord uses to prepare me for whatever He has next. Perhaps He wants to grow me more. Perhaps He’s protecting me. Perhaps angels are fighting battles in the heavenly realms. Perhaps it’s something else entirely. I may not know the answer in the now, but I have to trust that that’s okay. 

I once heard Beth Moore say that God invented time so He could glorify Himself through His sovereign, impeccable timing. 

All I know is that if it’s not reality, then it’s not time. If I experience a “holy hesitation,” it’s not time.

Therefore, I trust and am thankful for the wait. (Just remind me I said that the next time I’m waiting in the driver’s permit line at the DMV. #rootcanalanyone?)

How do you process whether to act or whether to wait? Whether to speak or hold your tongue? Do you tend to be a ticking time bomb or a patient princess? (Perhaps we’re all a little of both!)

Christina’s Take: 

One thing I know for sure: you did not write this just for yourself (as you surmise.) You AT LEAST wrote it for my heart, too.

I am such a foolish person when it comes to making snap decisions. I don’t seem to have that ability to take a half-a-mo to sort out the questions of discernment.

So grateful for this reminder — and grateful for your “gut check” that has caused me to take stock of some things in a new way today. Love you, girl!

Holly’s Take:

Waiting. Waiting can be the most anxiety ridden practice around. When Dave and I waited for 500 days to find out if we would bring home our baby, Negusu, home from Ethiopia, it sent me into one heaping round of questioning my faith. Every week we heard we would be bringing him home, followed by the next week, when we heard we wouldn’t and that cycle seriously went on for five hundred days. And then at the end of it all, we didn’t even ever get to bring him home. It just felt like loss at the end of all that waiting.  Sometimes this part of my story gets lost in the mix of everything else, but when I think of the emotional energy that was spent just waiting over that year and half, I will still find a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. It was at this time that I had to chose faith, because nothing made sense. I also concluded during that waiting era, that we can only see about 1/1000th of the picture that God does. When I start thinking about the waits and the whys and His timing, etc. . . I always picture myself talking to God and telling him why I think we waited for Negusu all that time and never got him.  Then he would sweetly grin and say, “you’ll understand someday.”  I just can’t imagine that I would tell him why I think something had to happen and he would say, “Yep, you figured it all out.  Way to go.”  Faith and waiting. Hard stuff.  Big stuff.    

Who Is Like YOU…with Less??

When I was sick last month, I sat in my house unable to hold any food down and without any purpose except to “get better” which by the way would have killed me eventually because I had a bigger problem that required surgery – but I digress….

When I was sick I kept kept kept thinking about those who cannot afford help. I had this picture of a woman like me, 40’s with a good education, fun friends and a decent work ethic but most importantly a dream for her family.

The dream this woman in my bleary-eyed imagination had was no different than mine. I want safety, I want my kids to have a better life than I did. It’s simple, really. We want to be known, we want to have a purpose and we want the same for our children. She and I are just alike.

That’s what I pictured as I tossed my cookies day after day –

…this woman, faceless, nameless but, at the same time, super powerful in my heart.

What could she do in my same situation? If any woman fighting for a new life (homeless, refugee, stuck in the poverty cycle) has a health crisis in her family, what does she do? Where does her help come from?

I ACTUALLY saw this while I was in the hospital. My roommate in the surgery recovery wing was extra stressed about getting better because she had limited insurance and a landscaping business that demanded her help ASAP as spring approached. Her income was made or lost while she sat in that hospital bed. Don’t tell me the stress of making her business stay afloat and making ends meet didn’t add to the complexity of her recovery!

How much GREATER is her predicament than mine was?

Sure, I had no purpose, no plans, and no energy but I have so many things I presume these women do not have. I have lots of insurance, I have a job, I have people checking in, I have a supportive, worried mate.

Again, how much more grave is the woman’s problem who has little by the worlds’ stan

And what do we do for these women?

And how can we process this issue together as women of purpose who share the same dreams as other women who are perpetually in some kind of crisis? Do we assume their choices got them there? My health crisis was random, serious and not a consequence of my actions. So why wouldn’t something like this happen to her?

I think my illness has tenderized my heart in a needed way.

So now I’m asking you:

Who is like you but just less privileged? Do you see her? Do you recognize her plight and that IT IS DIFFERENT than yours?

How will this lead you to vote? How will this lead you to act?

Megan’s Take:

To be honest, this post stops me in my tracks on two levels.

Number one: I don’t know what to do with the fact that JUST BECAUSE I was born in this country, in this day and age, with these means and this privilege could be the difference between life and death. Call it “survivor’s guilt” — I don’t know. But when I really stop to ingest that truth, my heart beats out of my chest. We humans, image bearers of God, are a body. We are family. We are one. The responsibility I feel to share the gifts God has given me in whatever way possible jumps to the top of the list. Listen, I realize life is not all about money, but let’s face it, it often involves money. A lot of it. And God asks us to share. That is clear. But how can we share in a respectful, equipping sort of way — not enabling hand-outs? That’s fodder for a whole other post. 

Number two: God has put me in relationship with a woman in my neighborhood (she has a name and a face, she’s not “someone somewhere else”) that embodies the exact things you describe, Christina. Obviously I cannot reveal too many details in order to respect her privacy, but the reality of this disparity and my potential role in creating one small bridge of justice in her circumstances is paramount in my heart and mind right now. I am asking God daily to reveal my place in her story, my portion, if you will. It is an absolute pleasure to be in relationship, but it often stretches me beyond my natural limits. I am leaning on God’s Spirit of grace and guidance as I actively rely on Him to direct our steps.  

Holly’s Take:

I don’t know???  Every day, there are multiple requests for help, either in the form of return address lables and a cause, a terrifying story on facebook which needs immediate funds, an update from missionaries barely surviving, cancer research, Special Olympics, close friends raising support, a natural disaster across the world, the IRS, organizations that provide a meal a day or vaccines for children in third world countries and the list goes on and on.  I do want to give to it all (except the IRS), especially since so many were so generous when I was in a very scary spot financially, after Dave died.  So, I set aside or bookmark the ones that I want to go back and pray about and decide how much to give and in the meantime, I get 10 more requests and the previous ones get lost in the shuffle of life. I wish that I had a focus on how to decide where my money should go.  My main two are adoptions and widows, for some strange reason???  Oh, also Special Olympics, because when Leah was a baby, she did this weird seizure like thing forever and the doctors couldn’t figure it out. So, I made a sort of deal with God that I would always give to Special Olympics, if Leah turned out to be able to talk and walk and stuff like that. I’m such a deep person, huh? I was getting very little sleep those days, in my defense. So, as we soon move into what I think is a pretty nice house, and I have a stack of letters asking for money in the corner, I guess I just feel guilty.  Some requests are easy to say yes to, but I’m not sure what to do with the rest???