Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Warrior Dashes and Donut Towers - 5 Wedding Warnings

Friends, let me tell you...


I would perhaps even posit that wedding planning requires all the skills that marriage does, and if you can survive the planning, you're pretty set for marriage.  This is not a joke.  Just think about it, you have to manage the budget, navigate family dynamics, and make more decisions than you've made in all the years of your life up to this point combined.  You think I'm kidding, but it gets so ridiculous sometimes, I've thought about writing my own wedding version of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

If you decide to have dessert at your wedding...
Cake? Pie? Alternative donut tower?
Chocolate? Vanilla?
Bowl?  Plate?
Glass?  Plastic?
Fork?  Spoon?
Plated? Buffet?

And that's just dessert.

Don't get me wrong, it's fun and exciting, and people say all kinds of nice things about you.  It's kind of the one time Life hands you a blank check and says you can ask ridiculous things of all your friends, spend thousands of someone else's money on a party for yourself, and make the longest list of presents ever.

So here are my 5 wedding warnings - not a warning against weddings, just, well, you'll see.

1. Delegate or Die
I'm not kidding.  If you don't have a lot of money to pay someone you can delegate to or an awesome set of friends and family, you'd better be headed for a hilltop with your 10 favorite people.  Coming from Princess Do It Herself, you can't do it yourself - if you want to be at all sane, not to mention pleasant to be around.

2. You will feel bipolar
I'm not diminishing the seriousness of the actual diagnosed condition, but you will feel the whole spectrum of emotions.  Some days I'm the happiest, most calm, we-got-this, no worries bride.  Some days I'm not very nice, feel like I'm growing an ulcer and totally overwhelmed.  To some degree, it comes with the territory.

3. Running will cross your mind
I love Nate.  He's my favorite.  I want to marry him.  AND.  There have been times during this whole thing where I have wanted nothing more than to physically run to Namibia and be a nomad with a camel.  Deep seated, adrenaline pumping panic.  Not over anything specific, just THIS IS A REALLY BIG DEAL!  It's ok.

4. Practice some de-Pinning
At some point in the planning process, it will be much more effective to start deleting pins from your <3 Mr. and Mrs. Forever Wedding Dreams and Roses Pinterest Board.  Seriously.  Clean that thing out.  Unrealistic ideas?  Conflicting themes?  Icelandic inspiration pics when you're getting married on the beach?  Get rid of them.

5. Soak it all up
There have been lots of times during this engagement that people have told me to just really enjoy it.  Usually, I've wanted to punch them in the face and tell them I really just want to be married because the planning can get insane.  But they're right, in a sort of ambiguous, well meaning way.  I would say this - soak up the love that getting married produces.  During my bridal showers, when friends are helping with wedding projects, and hearing that friends and family are flying in for the wedding, I'm just struck by how loved Nate and I are.  It's not so much the overwhelming romantic over the top love we have for each other that has amazed me during this time, but how well loved we are by the people around us.

I love weddings, and Nate, and I can't wait to get married in 6 days... but first I have to figure out where all these 260 people are going to sit.

Much love,

Little Miss Sunshine

Monday, March 2, 2015

How I Became a Fiancee

What follows may be called the most expected unexpected proposal of all proposals.

My story begins last Friday.  It had been a long week.  Nate and I were tired, but we had decided to hang out so we had dinner with our friends, Tanner and Lisa and watched a movie.  The next day I met the roomies to check out the flower market where we were scoping out flowers for Zanna’s wedding.  It wasn’t far from Nate’s house, so I was hoping that maybe we could spend some time together.  He was busy.  I was sad.  [Perfect set up for a proposal.]  Thank goodness for biscuit baking and fantastic roommates to talk to.  

That night I made biscuits and had a small meltdown.  [I miss you.  I wish we had more quality time together.  Why do we live so apart.  You know, the usual.]  Of course, he said all the sweet things.  [It won’t always be like this.  We’ll just make a point to spend more quality time together.  You know, the usual.]  

Sunday morning, I put on my new shirt, new heels, and even managed to wrangle my hair into a crown braid.  The night before, Jill had orchestrated a giant nail painting palooza the night before, so even the nails were in good shape.  Little did I know things would get worse before they got better.  He texted me that he had stayed up late working on his master’s homework and felt sick.  

Well fine.  Just fine.  I’d just look cute by my own self.  Phooey and forget it.  I’d just go to church and manage by myself.  [This is my super fantastic, Jesus-loving attitude at its finest.]

As I was coming out of church, he texted and told me that he wanted to spend time together, and that he was almost to my house.  I told him I’d be home in 15 minutes.  The whole way home I tried to figure out what we should have for lunch and wondered whether I’d better stop off at the store to grab some lunch.  I made it home without making a decision.  Jill’s car was parked on the curb.  Unusual, but I didn’t think anything of it.  The door was unlocked.  Not unusual.  I walked in expecting to hear Nate talking with the roommates.  Silence.  

As I swung open the door, I was greeted with these.  A sort of floral map that led through the living room and into the kitchen.  In the kitchen was a platter of food.  [I was thinking, hey this is great, he brought lunch!  Also I was thinking, IS THIS A PROPOSAL OR HIM BEING ROMANTIC JUST BECAUSE?!?!]  The flowers took a left turn into the… laundry room?  Yes, I was confused.  

I opened the door to the garage, and there he stood.  Standing next to him was a bike.  [The backstory on the bike is I had bought one at a garage sale a couple years ago.  Nate and I were going to redo it, but it’s been sitting in half-painted shambles in my garage for about a year and a half.]  It was a classic robin egg blue and coral pink bike with a basket full of fresh flowers.  That was all well and good, but the real show stopper was on the seat.  Black velvet box.  I saw it and immediately tried to look away because I didn’t know what to do.  So, being me, I screamed.  THIS IS AMAZING!    

Nate asked if I saw what was on the seat and I said A box?  He asked if I wanted to see what was in it and I said yeah, hoping against hope it wasn’t earrings!  He half dragged me over to the bike, as my feet and everything else had sort of stopped working.  Taking the box off the seat, he did what any red-blooded American man would do with a black velvet jewelry box in the situation [though I can hardly tell you why they do this].  He got on one knee.  He proposed.  

And I said YES.  

He put the ring on my finger, and we basked in the moment [read: I hyperventilated and repeatedly screamed IS THIS REAL].  When we went back in the house, our friends Tanner and Lisa and Jill and Lane and Zanna were waiting with my parents on FaceTime.  My sister-in-love, Audrey and her mom dropped in to celebrate and Audrey snapped some awesome pictures.  There was a lot of screaming and hugging and some more hyperventilating.  

I heard the rest of the story later, snatches from the roommates and Nate.  He had had the ring, which is a stunning antique solitaire, for several months, but was waiting for, well I don’t really know what.  He had decided [just before my Saturday evening impromptu breakdown] that he would do it the next day.  He called my dad and squared things away on the parental blessing front.  He texted the roommates and Tanner and Lisa and squared things away on the preparation front.  As it happens, he couldn’t hang out with me because he was getting a proposal put together.  He said mostly he wanted me to be surprised.  Well, ladies and gentlemen, of all the things, I was definitely surprised.  

I can’t wait to throw the biggest best party the West has ever seen with with the best man I could ask for.        


Little Miss Sunshine 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The Waiting Place

You can get so confused
that you’ll start in to race
down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace
and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space
headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.
The Waiting Place…

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps , for their Uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting. 

That’s from Oh, the Places You’ll Go, by Dr. Seuss.  He was wrong, you know.  The Waiting Place doesn’t have to be useless.  My friend, Paul, told me that once.  It wasn’t during a time when I could see it very clearly either.  It was the summer of 2013.  I just wanted a boyfriend.  I went through all the usual questions.  Is that so hard to ask?  Is it really that complicated?  Is there something wrong with me?  Is this punishment for something somehow that I’ve done?  No one else has to wait (ha!), why me?  It was a rollicking frolicking pity party, yall.  

What Paul said that night has stuck with me.  Waiting isn’t wasted.  It’s written right there in my journal.  Tuesday, July 23, 2013.  Waiting isn’t wasted.  Somehow, an All Mighty, All Knowing, All Perfect God is doing something much bigger than our curtailed vision can take in.  

That doesn’t make it easy.  Some of you have waited for and are still waiting for much weightier things than my end-of-the-summer-boyfriend.  

You wait for conception.  
You wait for doctor’s results.  
You wait for someone to come around.  
You wait for someone to be a friend.  
You wait for a safe place.  
You wait for someone to come home.  
You wait for someone to come to their senses.  
You wait for a small child to cross an ocean.  
You wait for the job offer.  
You wait for the sentence to be served.  
You wait for remission.
You wait for _____

Sometimes the weight of it all squishes the words right out of you.  The air goes right out of your lungs as a sigh instead of an explanation.  It can be lonely.  

When I was little, I thought that all I was waiting for was to grow up and do all the things that grownups do.  Then I would have arrived, and some inspector of persons would hand me a certificate, take my picture, and make an announcement that I had arrived.  After that, no more waiting!  Well, I have a man, a car, and a job, and you know what?  I’m still waiting for things.  

People tell me to “just be patient” “just wait”.  Do they tell you that too?  Probably so.  Most of the time I nod smilingly, but really I want to sort of swat them.  Don’t you understand?!  I want to tell them.  I don’t like this!  This wasn’t my plan!  [My plans rarely include waiting.]  What does that even MEAN?!  Just be patient.  What is patient, anyway?!  I get it, I get it, it’s a fruit of the Spirit.  It’s an orange or a strawberry in flannel graph Sunday school land.  But what ELSE is it, and can I buy it at Target?  

It’s ferocious.  

What?  Not what you were expecting?  

You were probably thinking sheep and knitting and porch swings.    

Patience is a wild one.  It stands still and runs at full speed.  It clings to Jesus and lets go of being in charge.  It waits but it doesn’t wait around.     

Patience swaddles squalling babies.  Keeps the flags standing straight in the front yard until the hero comes home.  Doesn’t give up when a year of treatment stretches into ten.  Shows kindness to the wife who isn’t quite ready to give up her bitterness.  Gives respect to the husband who only seems to have sharp words.  Gets on knees for the 67th time with the same prayer.  

Patience declares that God’s will, whatever it is, will come at the best time.  Patience declares that God’s love is not absent.  Patience gets busy living life because standing around in a black hole of self pity isn’t worth the time.  Patience declares that though we wait, we are not forgotten.  

Patience holds on to hope with white knuckles because God has been holding onto us since Adam, and He isn’t about to quit now. 


Little Miss Sunshine

Monday, January 5, 2015

Cubelife: The Update

A maze of cubicles.  People talking away on their headsets.  Mandatory meetings.  Quotas.  Pencil skirts.  This is where I work.  Oh, sure, it could be taken for the drab, crushing, corporate life.  I mean, I answer the phone, leave voicemails, have to formulate strategic plans for meeting my quota, avoid certain awkward office people, and wear a headset.  


I was not born to fit.  I am learning this more and more the longer I walk with Jesus.  Neither are you.  Neither is anyone.  We were not born to fit in, but fit together, using differences as a multidimensional strength, not an aberration to be lopped off at the latest convenience.  

So, yes, I do have a cubicle.  I do wear a headset.  I do feel the pressure of trying to make my quota each month.  I do sit through meetings that could have been condensed to an email.  

But also…

I do spend most of my day at a standing desk - standing, line dancing, dancing in general, doing squats - or bouncing on a yoga ball.  I do occasionally stand on my rolly chair and twirl around to find the person I’m looking for (wherein I usually get admonished and asked haven’t I read Officer Buckle and Gloria to which I say, yes, I dislike it very much thank you.).  

I do wear a headset, which frees my hands up to do fistpumps, type memos and do power poses.  I do leave some of my customers singing voicemails during the holidays just because.  I do have meaningful water cooler conversations with my coworkers about their children and pets.  I do round people up for a daily stroll around the block because sitting all day isn’t good for you, and office air isn’t either.  Note: I do try to be a good responsible grownup when I must.  

See, it isn’t all bad and squelching and American nightmare.  I get to work with principals and teachers.  Some of them teach in schools with lots of students from lots of nations.  Some of them teach in schools surrounded by cornfields tilled by five generations of Johnsons and Smiths.  I get to give away free stuff that will help students meet their goals in meaningful ways.  I get to sell AP French and elementary science and middle school literature.  I get to make sure that schools get what they need to meet the rising demands of education.  

I get to work with people that make me laugh so hard I’m crying.  I get to celebrate with them when they make their quota.  I get to share their birthday donuts.  I get to hear updates about their kids’ football games.  I get to help them sort out the stresses of ordinary life that sometimes seem extraordinarily heavy.  

Being in sales is fun for a reason I didn’t anticipate when I began, as is usually the case.  My dad has been in sales for as long as trees have had leaves, and growing up I always heard stories about his trips and accounts.  Now I am running around in the business world trying to keep my accounts happy, and it’s created a sort of vocational kinship with my dad.  I can call him and talk about strategies or efficiency or whatever is going on that day.  

Is it the perfect job?  Nope.  I don’t think they make those.  Do I want to do it until I’m 70?  Probably not, but if I did, it wouldn’t be a bad gig.  Do I love it and am I beyond thankful that God has me here?  Yep-o-rama.  

Pearson is a great place to work.  Tomorrow, they’re taking our entire department to attend training in Orlando for the week.  Helllooooo, business trip!  

Sometimes it’s more about making whatever you do meaningful than searching high and low for something that seems meaningful to do.

- Little Miss Sunshine, who occasionally wears pencil skirts, and who is chided at least once a week for standing on her desk chair.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I say sex, you say...

Warning: this post may not be appropriate for young readers

Let’s play a word association game.  I say sex, you say…

An experience designed for marriage to reflect the closeness and intimacy in relationship that God has in the members of the Trinity and will have with the church one day when all things are set right.  

That’s what you said, huh?  OK, well, I guess you’re all just fine and I don’t need to finish this so-provocatively-begun blog post.  Cool.  

Oh wait, you didn’t say that?  Suppose we’ll have to continue.  For Round 2 of my word association game, you can shout out a feeling that goes with the word (don’t shout too loud because that could get awkward).

I say…
Human trafficking
Teenage moms
Red light district

You say…?

That went downhill fast.  How do you feel now?  Disheartened?  Sad?  Uncomfortable?  Angry?  So much for Little Miss Sunshine.  

Time for Round 3.  

I say…

You say…?

I know, you were worried about Round 3 before it even started.  So how do you feel?  Warm fuzzies?  Relieved?  Hopeful?  Excited?  Thought so.  You know what’s crazy?  These two sets of words have something in common - sex.  How can one 3 letter word incite such opposite reactions?  How can one set of words send chills of horror down my spine and the other set make me want to happy dance?!  

Sex has been hijacked, and I object.  Like a cosmic episode of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, it’s as though every ad, artist and agency has taken it upon themselves to decide when, where and who with we should be having sex.  Oh, and if you’re not having sex, you’re weird, something’s wrong with you, or you’re living in the Dark Ages.      

What’s a Jesus-loving, Gospel-seeking, shalom-touting girl to do?  Turn to the church, of course!  Surely there she’ll find some sexual sanity in the middle of the madness.  So what saith the church?  

Don’t.  Don’t you dare have sex before you’re married because then you won’t be pure for your spouse.


Don’t you dare have sex before you’re married because God clearly says don’t.


If you mess up, there’s forgiveness, but try really hard not to mess up.


Don’t look at porn.


Don’t watch movies with lots of sex in them. 

OK, I’ll try, but that’s lots of movies, so I’ll just close my eyes if it’s really bad.  

Anything else I need to know about sex?


Um, ok then.  Thanks bye.  

This response doesn’t cut the mustard, friends, whatever that means.  Not only is it an inadequate response for a generation who has grown up in a sewage puddle of sexual comedy, media, culture and general profligacy, IT’S NOT BIBLICAL.  

Before you start throwing rocks, let me continue.  It’s completely Biblical to say don’t have sex before you’re married, and keep the heck away from sexual temptation in whatever form you find it.  I’m on board with that.  It’s completely unBiblical to pick and choose what you want of God’s Word and leave the rest.  

How many sermons have you heard on 
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord… husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…”  Ephesians 5:22-25

“Flee from sexual immorality… do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit…” 1 Corinthians 6:18-19

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”  Proverbs 4:23

Cool, they’re preaching the Bible where you are.  That’s good.  Now how often have you heard anything about these?

“…rejoice in the wife of your youth… Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love.”  Proverbs 5:18-19

“Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!  For your love is better than wine”  Song of Solomon 1:2

“‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”  Ephesians 5:31-32

What, you never knew that stuff was in there?  Oh.  Guess you’d better read your Bible.  At this point, you’re probably thinking, geez, Little Miss Sunshine, first you start talking about sex, then you’re beating the church over the head, what’s your point?!

Here’s my point: All I’m hearing from Chris Brown to Coca Cola is “you should be doing this because it’s amazing and it feels good and it’s the same thing as love” and from the other side all I hear is “don’t” and crickets.  I’M PRETTY SURE GOD HAS MORE TO SAY ABOUT SEX THAN DON’T AND CRICKETS!  He invented it… on purpose.  Not only did He invent it, what’s the first command He gives humankind?  

I’ll wait while you find it.  

“And God blessed them (Adam and Eve).  And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…’”  Genesis 1:28

You might want to sit down for this one.  Our great Creator God’s first command to humankind, the first married couple ever, wasn’t go build a church and it wasn’t go feed the giraffes.  His first command was go have sex.  Mind.  Blown.  

God cares about sex.  He cares so much for it that He knows it’s something so powerful that the only safe sex is shared between a man and a woman who have made a marriage promise to walk through all of life’s adventures together.  He knows that sex done the way He intended will make words like 


into a tangible experience.  

He also knows that sex done outside the way He intended will make words like 

Human trafficking
Teenage moms
Red light district

into a tangible experience.  

Do you believe Him yet?  
Church, will you please continue to say don’t before you’re married, but add an explanation of why?  
Will you please tell them also that sex is hottest, fieriest, most romantic when you do it with the person you married?  
Will you please give them a reason to wait?  
Will you please help them reclaim purity when they fall?  
Will you please be a voice that is loud enough to be heard and true enough to be trusted?

There’s a reason some things are worth waiting for.  

Little Miss Sunshine

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cubelife: The Backstory

Hey Friends - 

Lots of you have been asking about how teaching is going.  Well, it’s not going.  After two years of wrangling 8 year olds, I retired.  Naturally, you’ll protest.  You’ll say you’re sure I was such a good teacher and I seem like I’d be so fun or how could I just give up and become a statistic.  You’ll be surprised, dismayed, saddened.  You’re not the only one.   

Let me tell you, stepping away from teaching was like casting off from a dock I’d been anchored to since I was 7 years old and sailing off into the sunset.  I wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder, Anne Shirley, Christy Huddleston and march right into that classroom and ignite the fire of curiosity in the minds of children.  Oh, I was ambitious.  I was idealistic.  I was gung ho, alright.  

And I totally underestimated a few things.  First, I was homeschooled.  I had a great experience, I learned a lot, and I am a socially competent human.  I also have zero experience when it comes to things like fire drills, classroom discipline, and why it’s so important to practice standing in lines.  Second, I think I figured that being an adult would mean something to an 8 year old.  Maybe it does to some, but to others, you’re just a little taller.  They have little respect for authority, and they don’t just learn because you tell them to.  

My first year of teaching, I got hired 3 days before school started.  My family was out of town, so I set up my classroom by myself, survived meet the teacher night, and jumped right in.  The staff was kind and welcoming, and gave me help whenever I asked for it.  I had a class full of spark plugs, just the way I like them.  Unfortunately, I knew nothing about classroom management for a room full of spark plugs, writing lesson plans for smarty pants spark plugs and struggling spark plugs.  I didn’t know how to invent a math curriculum or work with an outdated reading one… so I improvised.  

We jump roped our times tables.  We played red light/green light with parts of speech.  I supplemented with BrainPop Jr videos.  I brought in guest speakers.  My first year wasn’t without its moments of brilliance.  Unfortunately, my data wasn’t grow-y enough.  My students weren’t well behaved.  Oh, they loved me alright, but they were stinkers.  Because I was a late hire, I only had a 1 year contract.  

My second year of teaching was not much different.  Great staff.  Supportive parents.  Just as many stinkers.  I loved every last one of them.  I still failed at classroom management.  I still had a hard time figuring out how to challenge a room of 28 very different people.  I still had a few moments of brilliance.  Data?  Still not grow-y enough.  My kids weren’t succeeding, and I couldn’t handle it because I knew it was my own darn fault.  

Now, I’m not stupid, and I feel like I have to toss that out there because I feel stupid every time I tell this story.  I’m sure I could have buried myself in pinterest and teachertube videos and figured out a 12 step plan to classroom recovery.  I was already working 8-12 hour days trying to survive… on top of lots of other normal life activities.  

It’s normal to have a hard 3-5 years, they kept saying.  I get that.  I didn’t expect it to be easy.  This was a little more than “not easy”.  This was soul scathing, deep seated dread, both that my kids weren’t achieving their goals, and that I could be abandoning what I thought was my big whopping life calling.  

What if I was a QUITTER.  What if I was an even worse - FAILURE. 

But what if… those were growing years.  What if it’s OK that I spent four years getting an education degree and only taught for two years.  What if it’s OK that I spent two years trying and decided I wanted to try something else.  What if deciding to be in sales instead of teaching was a preference choice instead of a moral choice.  What if those two years with those 50 kids were to teach me about asking for help and my own insecurities and success and God’s love for kids.

There were an awful lot of what ifs in those months while I was making this decision, and oh boy, I am not a girl who likes a whole lot of limbo.  I like black and white.  This is right or it isn’t.  Teaching was hard.  Not knowing was hard too.  I still don’t really know all the answers.  Sometimes [transparent moment] I wonder if God’s disappointed that I’m not in the trenches like my super cool teacher brother.  I wonder if I could have become a great teacher if I’d just stuck it out and read some good ole Harry Wong over the summer.  

But those aren’t really the thoughts I want to have about teaching.  I do want to remember the amazing teachers I met, and the ways they love kids faithfully every day.  I want to remember the way veteran teachers are the best sharers and givers around.  I want to remember knee high hugs and learning celebrations and how much I love kids.  I want to be open to teaching if the right situation comes along.  I want to encourage you that sometimes you need a change, and sometimes you need to stay put, and sometimes figuring that out is hard and takes a whole lot of praying.  

Well, this kind of turned into a teachery post instead of an update on what I’m doing now, but coming soon - Cubelife: the corporate caper.

Much love,

Little Miss Sunshine

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Dear Little Sister, what I wish I'd known...

I don’t have any little sisters, per se, but I’ve sort of adopted a few over the years.  This post is dedicated to Sarah, Megan, Elizabeth, Jill and Dora - may Truth make you wise and Love make you beautiful. 

Dear Little Sister,

We love feeling lovely.  We braid our hair in crowns.  We buy dangly jangly bracelets.  We parade around in heels.  Even in our most tomboyish moments atop trees or playing 3rd base we want to feel brave and beautiful.  We want it all.  

Well, dear heart, there will come a time when you 

get the wrong haircut
feel fat
have an impossible hair day
develop a condition
get a scar (right knee)
notice your face isn’t symmetrical (my smile is totally crooked)
live through a wardrobe malfunction (the Starbucks incident)
hear a hurtful comment about yourself
don’t get chosen (I hate picking teams to this day)

or any number of other things.  You won’t feel so lovely then.  You’ll think there’s not an ounce of lovely in you, that you’re a pitiable lost cause.  Well, I have good news.  

Beauty is not in the telling.   
Beauty is not in the buying.  
Beauty is in the being.  

Often, we let ourselves get tangled up with loving ourselves or loving people’s opinions or loving the latest book by the latest theologian.  This does not make us lovely.  On the contrary, it makes us rather hideous because it’s not what we were meant to do.  How would you feel if you saw someone using a beautiful porcelain vase to prop a door open?  What if you walked into a kitchen and someone had a Monet painting on the floor as their kitchen rug?  THAT’S NOT WHAT IT’S MADE FOR!  (That’s what I’d be hollering, anyway.)  

It’s the same with us. People are never mistakes; we are always miracles.  We are each gifted in unique ways, and are made for a specific calling and purpose.  We are made with hearts hardwired for loving.  We were made for something so much grander than just buying things, attending things, or wishing for things we don’t have.

This grand adventure of loving is where beauty comes from.  It shows up in smiles and the sparkle in your eye that comes from doing what you were meant to do - love people.  It shows up in patience and kindness.  It shows up in self-forgetfulness and generosity.  There’s no bucket of Bobbi Brown that can recreate that.  MAC doesn’t sell blush in “Happiest Smile Because You’re Spending Time with Kids”.  Bare Minerals doesn’t have eyeshadow in “There’s Wonder Afoot and I’m a Part of It”.  

So you want to be lovely?  Here’s the secret.  Love.  It makes you lovely.  Setting aside your own wants and opinions for the sake of someone else makes you lovely.  Giving your time and talent to someone who needs help makes you lovely.  Showing kindnesses to people who are overlooked makes you lovely.  I know, you can’t trade in kindness for a credit at Gap, but they don’t sell lovely anyway.  

On those inevitable bad hair/zit on the nose/nothing to wear sort of days, remember - loveliness isn’t bought.  It isn’t conjured up with will power.  It isn’t even coaxed into appearing through self love and positive thinking and pampering (though I’m not opposed to a good pedicure now and then).  Loveliness comes when we love others, not ourselves.  It is a choice to be lovely, to speak truth with kindness, to encourage, to serve.  It’s what you were made for. 

Just remember, little sister, you are lovely in your loving.

Little Miss Sunshine

Friday, August 22, 2014

What the ALS Bucket Challenge, ISIS and Ferguson Have in Common (and why it matters)

You know what I’m sick of?  

For the last couple of weeks ISIS, Ferguson and now the ALS Water Bucket Challenge (along with the occasional TSwift awkward dancing music video) have been blowing up my Facebook feed… but that’s not what I’m sick of.  

Sure, I’m tired of the bad news, I’m tired of hearing about Christians being murdered and run out of their countries.  I’m tired of how the media has taken Ferguson and turned it into a dramatic spectacle to meet their word quotas.  I’m tired of the diatribes about whether it was a race issue or a corruption issue.  I’m tired of people arguing passive aggressively by posting articles about how the ALS Ice Water Challenge is killing babies or saving lives or a Facebook fad or a meaningful way to fund research.  Yes, these are all serious issues.  

But here’s the deal…
ISIS is not the problem.
Religious persecution is not the problem.
Obama’s level of engagement with the problem is not the problem.
Corruption of the justice system is not the problem.
Racial profiling is not the problem.
Facebook is not the problem.
A debilitating disease called ALS is not the problem.
Ignorant people who jump on bandwagons are not the problem.

There is only one problem.


There was a time before ALS was possible.  There was a time before religious factions, before religion itself.  There was a time before we needed a justice system.

There was a time when things were perfect.  The world was beautiful.  Relationships were whole.  There was never a miscommunication or a doubt about good intentions.  There were no I’ll miss you’s or goodbyes.  People lived forever.  The air was clean, and no one worried about GMOs or the state of the polar ice caps.  People talked with God because they knew Him personally, and He talked back, and it wasn’t weird.  

All that changed when we took what was good and broke it.  There was a flicker of doubt that maybe God didn’t know best, that maybe we knew best.  The disobedience driven by our own pride of thinking we were independent drove a chasm between us and everything else.  Goodbye, perfect communion with God.  Goodbye, deep, untarnished relationships.  Goodbye, responsible stewardship of creation.  

Fast forward through a lot of war, plague and famine.  God shows up, literally, in Bethlehem and starts saying some crazy things.  

The Romans are not the problem.
Tax collector corruption is not the problem.
Nationality is not the problem.
Poverty is not the problem.
Even cultural norms surrounding prostitutes attending dinner parties is not the problem.

There is only one problem.


It’s in your eyes, in your words; it pervades every inch of your insides, and I’ve come to set you free from it.  And when you pray, the next thing out of your mouth after “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name” needs to be “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”.  

Know why He said that?  He knew as soon as our eyes were opened to the stench of sin and death and the freedom of grace, we would understand what beauty is.  The discord between what was and what is would make our souls ache for something better.  It would break our hearts to see the ravaged human landscape with fresh eyes.  As soon as we had tasted the truest love, we would want to do something about all the counterfeits.  He says we aren’t the only ones.  In Romans 8, He says everything else on earth is waiting with baited breath until things are forever set right, until pain and fear don’t even exist, until people know that Jesus is the only one who makes life good and He’s coming back to finish what He started.    

So what does this have to do with you and ISIS or you and Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson or you and your personal policies about raising awareness on social media?  That second little line of The Lord’s Prayer?  The one that you usually breeze through -  “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”?  Yeah, it doesn’t just mean Your will be done on this CT scan, though it does mean that.  It doesn’t just mean Your will be done on my decision on whether to take this job or not, though it does mean that.  

It means crying out, Father, we know you love us and You are the source of every good thing, make things like they should be, how they were meant to be before we broke what You made!  It means begging for wisdom to know what is right and the guts to do it.  It means thoughtful, active engagement in dealing with the real problem, not just the symptoms.  

Practically speaking, maybe “Thy kingdom come” means taking a day off of social media to ask God to slice through your calluses and show you how you can serve people.  
Maybe it means getting the names of ten terrorists and asking the One who made them in the first place to change their hearts and open their eyes to what is right.  (I know, it’s a little unconventional.)  
Maybe it means dumping a bucket of water on your head and committing to find and encourage a real person who has ALS.  
Maybe it means listening to people who disagree with you and treating them in such a thoughtful, respectful way that it encourages thoughtful, respectful conversations in the public arena.  

I don’t know what it will look like in your zipcode for your 8-5.  

What I do know is, if not us, then who?  


Little Miss Sunshine

Monday, August 18, 2014

How You Know He’s the One

OK, folks.  Here it is.  The blog post you’ve been waiting for, the answer to the question you’ve been agonizing over.  How do you know that guy you’ve been dating for the last 4, 9, 27 months is THE ONE?  You met at small group, things quickly escalated as you went from staring awkwardly across the Bible study circle to sitting next to each other, and from smiling in passing between church services to attending the same service. (Whoa.) You went on your first date to that one restaurant that everyone goes on their first date to, or maybe you went conservative and just “did coffee”.  

After a while of this slightly awkward “talking” phase (though how much actual talking it involves depends on the two people, more on that here), he asked you to be his girlfriend.  Whoa.  You felt like you had really hit the big time. (Whatever that means.)  At some point you brought him home to meet your family and held your breath hoping your dad wouldn’t interrogate him (in front of you, at least).  You got to know his friends, his past, his parents.  Maybe some of those were messier situations than others, but you stuck it out.  

You kept dating.  

And dating.

And alllll the while, you were (perhaps frantically) trying to decide THE BIG QUESTION.  


[I will pause momentarily here and qualify the term “THE ONE”.  Disney may, perhaps, sue me, but I don’t really care.  Sometimes people (usually of the girl variety) get all wrapped up in this idea of THE ONE being one single, solitary human being in the universe that they must somehow find among all the other human beings who is their one and only match made in heaven.  I think that is a whole lot of stress-inducing, nonsensical hyper-romantic frippery.  When I say THE ONE, I mean the single, solitary human being you want to choose to love even when they decide that growing a mustache is a good idea, or they leave their dirty socks on the floor.  Now that we have that established, let us continue.]  

So, is he?  I mean, it’s kind of an important question, and goodness knows everyone and their mother is going to want to know if he’s THE ONE.  If he is THE ONE, they’ll want to know when you’re getting engaged and if he’s not, they’ll want to know why in tarnation you’re still dating him.  Because they love you, and they're nosy.  

Well, reader, I have one question for you.  Probably you should sit down for this one. 


*Braces for impact of all manner of theologically sound backlash*

I know, I know, you don’t need to be happy, it’s all about joy, and marriage is about making you holy, not happy, and what about doctrinal compatibility and similar political alignment and and and… 

And are you finished protesting yet?

Ok, great.  

Yes.  You’re right.  Happiness is circumstantial and joy is a product of walking with Jesus.  Marriage tends to knock off your rough edges, and doctrine and politics matter.


Isn’t that all understood?  Do I really have to tell you that you should be dating someone like that?  Do you need someone to explicitly say, look, since you’re going to be married to this person for the rest of your life, you should probably agree on the Big Four (religion, kids, politics and money).  Do you have to have it spelled out to you that if you have a reasonably normal set of family and friends and they don’t like who you’re dating, that’s a PROBLEM?  

So what’s left?  If you agree on red and blue issues, how much money you want to give away, that you like kids, and that chasing after Jesus is the most important thing, what’s left?


Because let me tell you, I know puh-lenty of guys that I agree with about the Big Four, but they don’t make me happy.  They don’t include me on adventures or make me laugh or take me dancing or sit and listen and hold me when I’m a blubbering mess.  I don't wake up thinking about them, and have fun just doing whatever with them.  They don't make me melt with the words they say or the things they do.  They don't give me internal fireworks or heart palpitations or any other signs of really liking someone.  They just agree with me about how the country should be run and whether or not John MacArthur is a good author.  That's all fine and dandy, but there's no convincing me that just because we agree on those things, they're THE ONE.  So assuming you’re not on the other end of the spectrum and an idiot dating a bad boy thinking you can reform him or something, the only question you really have to answer is:


Yeah?  Then probably he’s A GOOD ONE and probably you should marry him if he asks you.  [He’s not really THE ONE until you walk back down that aisle hand in hand having promised to love him on Thursdays and Christmas Days and days when he wears purple socks and every other kind of day there is.]  Rest easy, dear one, it’s simpler than you thought.  

Much love and in love,

Little Miss Sunshine