Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Don’t talk it if you can’t walk it.

I set myself up all the time.

Talking about things like “transparency” and thanking God in all things.

Forgetting that the teacher always has to take the test first.

I’m glad I wasn’t transparent on the way home from the doctor the other day. People would have been pulling off the road in horror. There were snakes and toads running around inside my brain. (Actually, I felt like a toad.) Every negative, foul, vile thought you can imagine. Bad words. A labyrinth of ever-increasing negativity, bitterness, dread, and hopelessness.

I can’t tell you how many little things I’ve hated about the past week or so.

I felt completely exhausted… ill… done-in.

And so over it.


Like, feeling tired of life.

Wondering why in the world I’d posted that quote from William Law on the internet. Because not only was I not exhibiting a thankful heart, I was grumbling worse than the Israelites in the desert. (And we know what happened to them.)

I promise you, it was exactly at that moment, when I was feeling like the world’s biggest hypocrite, that I drove past this sign:

I had to zip across two lanes in order to circle back around and take a picture.

I sat there for a few minutes in the church driveway, shaking my head at God's blatancy and humor. A homeless man pushed past me on his bike, heavy-laden with the weight of his earthly belongings. 

I realize: All this has been a test.  One which I haven’t passed with flying colors.

Why does it seem easier to pass the huge tests of life than the daily pop exams?

I have lived through far, far worse weeks than the past one. Dealt with far more terrible things than a move and the flu.

Yet have managed to stay serene, trusting, and thankful in their midst.

I realize that true testing is not necessarily during the times of worst trauma.  Because in those times, you are given gratuitous grace. You have to allow yourself to be carried like a child. There is no other choice.

But it’s the little things that get you every time.

The tests that build spiritual muscle are in the daily drudgeries of life. When everything seems gray and joyless.

And not fun.

The tests are in the mindless tasks done over and over and over again.

They come when you’re down in the trenches with the dirty diapers and the dirty dishes and the dirty looks from snarly salespeople.

The tests are in the sick bed and during the stressful move and refereeing the kids’ fight and wondering how the bills will be paid. The tests come when there’s an ungrateful client or rude teenagers or complicated relationships or overdrawn checking accounts or hurt feelings or papers due.

Tests come from cleaning up vomit and changing the sheets again and fixing another snack and loading the dryer and shopping for groceries and cleaning out closets and closing up a home.

From writing a blog post when you feel you have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say.

Growth comes through the painful choice to choose thanks when everything in you is yelling, “NO, THANKS. I didn’t sign up for this.”

When gratitude is forced through gritted teeth.

And clenched fists are released to receive whatever comes next from the hand of God.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Forgotten Secret

Sorry I’ve been incommunicado this week.

The night before the movers came to dismantle my childhood home, I woke up at 3 a.m. with the flu.

Not a cold. Not a virus.


Bone-rattling, teeth chattering, flu.

Chills and fever with all the trimmings. Stabbing aches and pains. Dizziness. Malaise. Intense fatigue. A cough that feels like a sword is going into my chest and out my back.

When I walk up the stairs, my heart rate goes wild.

My eyeballs are even sore.

I’ve got to tell you that I’ve been questioning the Almighty about the timing of this thing.

It has given the move an even more surreal, nightmarish aura.

(i.e., Tell the movers where to put the chest/sneak back to the empty bedroom, lie down on the rug and shiver.)

There’s been no clean break. My poor mother is camping out in a half-empty house, alone with her memories. No TV.

Over the course of the week, I kept getting worse instead of better…. so yesterday we took a hiatus. Didn’t get out of bed all day. Drank gallons of water. Slept.

I thought that surely I’d be much better today.


Sometimes life is hard.

And painful.

I find myself peevishly grumbling: “Why did you allow me get sick again this week? Didn’t we pray and pray for a smooth move? This has been much harder than it had to be.”

I lie here trying to come up with a positive thought before my feet hit the ground.

Hmmmmm. Not coming up with much.

And it dawns on me.

Lately, I’ve been working on living a more grateful life.

I’m reading a new book on gratitude, and an old book on praise.

There is a secret I learned years and years ago, but continuously forget.

William Law, 18th century theologian, expressed it well:

"If anyone can tell you the shortest, surest way to all happiness and perfection, he must tell you to make it a rule to yourself to thank and praise God for everything that happens to you, for it is certain that whatever seeming calamity happens to you, if you thank and praise God for it, you turn it into a blessing."

I’ve got my work cut out for me.

At least this public confession will hold me accountable.

Let you know how it goes.

(p.s. Happy Birthday, Middle Girl! xoxo, Mom)

Friday, February 11, 2011


For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 
(I Cor. 13:12, kjv)

We talk a lot about “transparency” these days.

It is obvious from the responses to this post that many of us wish for more of that.

We long to exist in a state of being fully known, yet fully loved.

But we have been born and raised in a world that loves conditionally.

It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. We can’t blame it all on our parents or our schools or our spouses or our friends.

This place is just a brownie-point, gold-star kind of world. From preschool up until the present, we’ve been graded. (Actually, since infancy. “Be a good little baby and stop crying now.”) Points for good behavior. Points for superior achievement. Points for correct appearance. Ad nauseum.

Measure up, measure up, measure up.

But we don’t.

Some of us even admit to it.

We can’t quite seem to make the mark. Even if we’re able to convince the world that we’re perfect in every way, we know the truth.

I know what goes on inside of me. You know what goes on inside of you.

It ain’t always pretty.

So we hide the ugly… sometimes even from ourselves… stuffing it back down inside to damp, dark, moldy places where it grows into Shame.

But don’t we all yearn for freedom? For fresh air and sunshine? To dance under a brilliant blue sky with our Father smiling down on us?

I do.

I want to be that little girl again. I want to recapture those few moments of self-conscious-less joy. Self abandonment. Purity. Innocence.

The way it was in the beautiful garden before the killing knowledge.

Imagine what it must have been like to live without the possibility of evil. Without knowing what it was.

Desiring children, not puppets, God gave us the gift of choice.

Strangely, sadly, we chose… we choose… rebellion instead of joyful obedience.

Why do we think that God is holding something back from us…
something better than what we already have?

We want our own way. Not His.

There’s something in us that would rather jump in a filthy mud puddle than go skinny-dipping in an unpolluted sea. Our desires are messed up. As C. S. Lewis wrote, It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

But it seems that even paradise was not enough for us.

With paradise lost, came the covering–up. The hiding of shame. The subterfuge. The pretending. And so it’s been forever after.

Opacity became the refuge from the reality of our imperfection. The protective covering of armor that prevents others from seeing what we hate about ourselves.


I’ve always loved the words at the top. Even before I had a clue what they meant. I still have the derivative Rolling Stones album from 1960-something: Through the Past, Darkly.

I liked the verse from a philosophical point of view: the meaning of Reality vs. Illusion. We were into that kind of stuff then. Like Plato’s Cave.

Later, I realized that modern translations are more accurate:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.” (niv)

It is the reflection of self that keeps us from seeing truly.

…that keeps us from really knowing ourselves. The image of Self… self-image obscures the reality of how we actually are.

And keeps us from seeing Ultimate Reality.

From this side of the mirror, all we see is the reflection of our own imperfection. Our distorted view of reality has come from years of believing lies about who we are. Years of developing negative attitudes and prejudiced opinions, years of thinking we know it all.

We know so very little.  (‘Now I know in part…’)

Human beings can see only a tiny part of the beautiful big picture. We squint our eyes, peering into Eternity, but catch only a glimpse that soon fades away.


It’s a one-way mirror.

Reality is obscured only from our side. From the other side, everything is completely transparent.

We are completely transparent.

Naked and exposed. The view from the other side is much clearer than an airport body scan.
Sharper than the most advanced MRI.

We’re as clear as crystal to the one who matters most. (And evidently to a “great cloud of witnesses” as well.*) We are fully known. We are known far better than we know ourselves.

It’s no use trying to hide.

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” (Ps. 139:11-13)
God has seen it ALL. Every secret sin of heart, mind, or deed. Every vicious thought. Every fall. Every wound. Every abuse. Every failure. Every act of desperation. Every pettiness. Every loss of love. And every lack of love.

He knows every single thing there is to know about me. About you.

He knows each of us fully, more fully than any human being ever will.

And, still, He loves us infinitely.

He calls us “beloved.”

So why are we so afraid to be transparent with each other on this side of the mirror? With other perfectly imperfect people?

We're all in this together. 

(I'm taking a baby step this afternoon.)


(* "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles." Hebrews 12:1)

Monday, February 7, 2011


The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.

William Shakespeare

Speeding in a school zone.

When the light was blinking.

But I didn’t notice, as intent as I was on the racing thoughts in my head.

The Gotta-Do’s last week reminded me of Final Exam week. I wasn’t headed for an A.

I was worried that I might forget about something I was supposed to be worrying about. Like picking out paint colors for my mother’s apartment in the Retirement Home. Ordering her new curtains. Cleaning out ancient closets. Filling out more forms. Or something.

I was also late picking my mother up from her bridge group in order to take her to the next appointment.

Racing thoughts, racing heart, racing car=


I braked the moment I saw the man with the laser gun aimed at my car, but it was too late.

He motioned me over to the side of the road.

Heart sank, tail slunk between legs.

deep sigh.

But I left my praise music on when I rolled down the window.

“Did I do something wrong?” (The perpetual unspoken metaphysical question.)

“I clocked you at 38 in a 25 school zone. Didn’t you see the lights?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t even notice. To tell you the truth, I’m late to pick up my mother from her bridge group, and I’m afraid she’ll be worried. Or might get confused.”


Not, “I’m sorry, I’m on my way to the hospital to deliver a baby… or a gallstone… or a heart to transplant.”

Just the unadorned, unembellished, banal truth. The everyday humdrum answer.

Then I surprised myself.

“Could you please just give me a warning?”

He looked at me.

I looked back at him.  I didn’t expect him to say yes.

But he did.

Now, I’ve tried to talk my way out of many a traffic ticket, using every lawyerly argument within my powers of persuasion… to no avail. Even when I was passionately convinced of my right, and not willing to back down. Tears, emotional excuse-making, eye-batting worthy of Scarlett, pleas for clemency… all pointless.

But this time, I just peacefully asked

and received


He still had to write out the warning. I pulled down the road and sat there listening to my music, pondering and wondering.

I thanked him sincerely and simply when he handed me the little yellow parchment.

Our eyes met again.

I had to turn around in someone’s driveway. As I drove back past him, I gave him a slight wave and a half-smile. He gave me a slight wave back, but no smile. He looked like a soldier on patrol, protecting all the innocent school children from maniacs like me.

That night I read, “I will show mercy to anyone I choose, and I will show compassion to anyone I choose.” (Romans 9)

The word mercy comes from the Latin word merces, meaning "price paid for something, wages, reward."

I realized something.

The ticket has already been paid for.

I did not deserve mercy that day.

But I received it.

Just as I receive it every single day of my life.

All my tickets have been paid in full.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

I’m feeling frustrated again.

Because the comments on the last two blogs were so meaningful to me. And I want to respond! But there is no time at the moment.

In the middle of The Move craziness, I am going out of town on a quick trip.

There are three or four blog posts begging for completion, but I am going to have to put them aside for a little bit and pray that the momentum will not be lost.

A valuable conversation has begun here. (And it's not over. Feel free to keep adding your thoughts to the previous post.)

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, please read the comments on the last one. I agree with my friend “L” that we have much to learn from each other.

Thank you so much to every one who took the time to write. We are all blessed by each other’s words. Every word of encouragement is a wonderful present. I pray a special prayer over each of you who shared your thoughts.

Speaking of prayer, there are several huge things that are heavy on my heart:

A family friend has just gotten the devastating news that her son has contracted HIV. Please pray for them.

Also, I’m sure most of you have heard the horrifying news of the mother who shot and killed her two teenage children while her Military Intelligence husband was serving in the Middle East. The father is a close family member of one of my middle child’s best friends. She has been staying with Amie since the tragic news, and will be flying to the funerals of her precious cousins today. There are no words possible, only prayers.

I know that many of you love to intercede in prayer for those who are suffering, so please join us in covering these families.

The life of my own family has been changed forever by the fervent prayers of kind strangers.

Prayer does change things.

God bless you.  

love, Kim