• 3 Helpful Guides When You Don’t Know What to Pray

    She squeezes her eyes shut, folds her hands, and then ever so slowly lifts up her head, reopens her eyes, and locks her gaze on his face.  She sits quietly, waiting for him to speak.   “Dear God,” he begins.  She echoes.  “Thank you for my cheese.”  She repeats.  “Thank you for goldfish.”  Again she mimics his words.  He continues to name the foods on the table, the people gathered around it, and in her toddler voice she copies every phrase.  He ends with an “Amen,” but she keeps going, “And Jesus, and Bible, and,”— my personal favorite as of the past two weeks—, “Hallelujah!” My two year old daughter is…

  • Let’s Tell Stories About Our Souls

    I’ve been thinking lately about the stories we’ll tell when this is over.  I imagine us cozied up around fire pits, gathered around dining room tables, and lingering over church pews.  I imagine front porches lit up late into the night while the kids catch fireflies in the yard. I imagine we’ll squeeze as many people into our schedules as possible, forgetting about whatever fear we used to carry about hospitality and opening up our homes.  We’ll do whatever it takes just to be in the physical presence of friends, family, neighbors, and church communities.   What will we say? There will be funny stories, ones where we admit hiding soft…

  • When The Coronavirus Affects Your Marriage: Remember, Embrace, & Endure

    I remember screaming in the kitchen, storming down the hall to our bedroom, and slamming the door behind me.  We were newlyweds, new homeowners, and had decided to work remotely from home. Bradley wanted to work late at night, using daytime for Home Depot runs and house projects.  I wanted to work normal business hours. We argued a lot. Sometimes I regretted the decision to work from home and wondered if our marriage would survive. Now, here we are, twelve years later, and we—along with millions of other couples—are being forced to eat, sleep, play, work and do everything together 24/7.   By God’s grace we’re no longer screaming in the…

  • An Unexpected Gift for the Church in the Midst of COVID-19

    I printed out bulletins and had the older girls set up children’s church in the dining room.  We gathered in the den—some still in pj’s, Bradley with a cup of coffee, and the kids in bean bags on the floor.  The sound coming through the TV was terrible, but we stuck with it, grumbling to one another to be quiet and stop moving around so we could try to hear the call to worship.  One kid asked for a snack right in the middle of the confession of sin, and another moved to his bedroom to play Legos. Live streaming church from our den during COVID-19 yesterday was an interesting…

  • What We Reach for Reveals our Hearts

    In need of a little sunshine, and in an effort to rid our home of sweets after the holidays, I placed a basket of our favorite citrus on the dining room table.  I gave the kids permission to eat them whenever they wanted, and eat them they did.   We ate twenty pounds of clementines in January.   Finished all your spaghetti?  Sure, have an orange. Hungry before bed?  Eat an orange. Even our not-quite-two-year old often climbed onto the table and helped herself by biting right through the peel.  I tossed oranges to hungry kids for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our Vitamin C consumption is through the roof. It’s amazing what…

  • Marriage Was Never Supposed to Fill the Empty Spaces

    If you had asked me before my wedding if I thought marriage would meet all my emotional needs, I would have shaken my head no and spouted off all the right answers about who had my heart, who met my needs, and where to run when I was sad.  Jesus is my all.  I know I would have said this.     Then life happened.  When things got hard, I wanted my husband.  When I felt confused, I looked to him to make sense of things.  I could see his face, hear his voice, and feel his comforting arms around me.  He was the perfect replacement. Until he wasn’t around for some…

  • The Only Hope for an Aching Soul

    It’s 2008 and I’m driving the bright blue PT cruiser they gave me at the rental desk.  I’m on the outskirts of Chicago, where I’ve just spent a long weekend celebrating Thanksgiving with Bradley.  I dropped him off at the barracks of the Great Lakes Naval base; they don’t let wives in to their bachelor quarters.  I’ll head back to the hotel for the night and then catch a flight home in the morning. At this point we’ve been living in two different states for almost five months.  I make the flight from Virginia, to Chicago O’Hare, about once every six weeks, but this is his final weekend off before…

  • Top 12 Books from 2019

    Welcome to the 2019 round-up of my favorite books. People occasionally ask me for book recommendations, and I love to give them. So each month I include the books I’ve completed in my monthly newsletter. If you want a more exhaustive list throughout the year, with a little bit of commentary, be sure to sign up to receive those emails. I didn’t set a goal for how many books to read this year, but I did branch out from my typical non-fiction genre, and kept at least one fiction book going at all times. This meant I didn’t read very much fiction, because I always pick those up at night,…

  • A Lesson from the Ant on Spiritual Diligence

    Every week after the church service, a sweet Nigerian lady in our congregation hands six dum-dum lollipops to my children.  I tuck them away for later so no one gets sticky on the walk to Sunday school, but evidenced by the groupings of ants I keep finding around our house, I guess I’ve neglected to pass out the dum-dums. Ants are fascinating creatures.  No wonder King Solomon told us to pay attention to them. “Go to the ant, O sluggard.  Consider her ways and be wise…” (Proverbs 6:6). Without anyone telling them what to do, ants work hard to gather food.  Somehow they can smell sugar through walls, carpet, diaper…

  • When Comparison Derails You From Doing Your Own Good Work (a Message for Writers who Use Instagram)

    I recently received a question about boundaries on Instagram from a fellow writer.  She asked what boundaries I had in place in order to keep myself from comparing with others and falling into despair.  I answered her briefly through a direct message, but it’s a topic I’ve wrestled with for the past eighteen months, one I think is a struggle for others, so I wanted to address it here.   We can’t make hard and fast rules for boundaries in our use of social media.  What one person struggles with on Instagram may not be a struggle for someone else.  So, rather than sharing my specific boundaries, I thought it might…