But If Not

Reposting this from a blog I write for at work called Strangely Dim. It posted on Monday, but I hope was hoping you might enjoy. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

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I had my morning all mapped out: a quick edit on my Strangely Dim Thanksgiving post (set to go live today), a slew of emails returned, a large dent on some research for another project I was working on, an early lunch and I’d be in the office to hit “publish” on this by noon.

Except when I flipped open my laptop to get my super-productive morning kicked off, I realized I hadn’t saved the most recent version of my gratitude-induced post. In fact, I hadn’t saved anything even close.

After two hours of trying to recover the file (a whimsical yet thoughtful IVP twist on my favorite holiday classic, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving), I emailed my buddy and co-contributor Dave to tell him I’d be a little late with our pre-Thanksgiving entry. His reply came swiftly, “Ach. That sucks. Happened to me this morning as well. Gonna be hard to be thankful this Thanksgiving.”

Funny, right? The irony of his humorous little quip is how precisely it captured what I had already planned on quipping about myself–a cultural leaning (or perhaps just a human one) to extend gratitude only as high (or as low) as our current circumstance. Or if we’re really getting down to it, our cultural leaning to equate the goodness of God with our pile of stuff.

Insert Linus’ prayer from A Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving here.

Don’t get me wrong. On Thursday I will be overflowing with gratitude for both my circumstances and my stuff. I will sit on my in-laws’ couch, enjoying a rare third cup of coffee, inhaling the childlike enthusiasm of my kids all sprawled on the floor as they watch the Macy’s Day parade. I will hold hands with people I love around a table buckling with food and, with warmth in my bones, I will lift up a prayer of thanks for every last bite.

At the same time, I will remind myself of the slippery slope of thanksgiving–proclaiming God’s goodness based on our own abundance rather than his. After all, no home or person or sweet potato casserole is guaranteed an invitation year after year. But the true goodness of God, those attributes that reside in his character — generosity, trustworthiness, holiness, love, justice, mercy and self-sacrifice — these are a safe bet every time.

Several years ago my husband brought home a worship CD produced by Student Impact at Willow Creek Community Church. The chorus of one song in particular still runs through my head, both on everyday mornings like today when life doesn’t go as planned and in my more reflective moments pondering life’s greatest gifts.

The song goes like this:

If today brings only pain and sorrow

And my heart says there is no tomorrow

I lift my hands to you and ask in my small voice

That you would come to save me

I know it’s your choice

But if not

I’ll still call you father

I’ll still call you Lord

I’ll still praise your name forever

No matter what life brings

If tonight my eyes close and I’m alone

l’ll ask you to comfort me

ask you to send your angels down to rescue me

But if not . . .

This Thanksgiving, I hope your table is surrounded with friends and family and overflowing with food. I hope your job is plentiful, your children are thriving and your adventures are successful. I hope your health is strong, your mind is sharp and your soul is full with love, laughter and life. I hope your turkey is juicy.

But if not . . .

Invitations and Influence

I wrote this post for the blog I manage over at FullFill. It’s a blog for women that focuses on using our influence, but I think it broadly applies. If you want to click through to finish reading it, well, please do (while I resist the urge to make a few small edits. . . ). And thanks, once again, to my friend Adele for writing a bookI can forever quote.

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UGH. Why did I say yes to this?

I don’t need to know you to feel comfortable making this wager: you’ve said these words, probably more than once—and you’ve hated yourself for doing so. Most likely sitting at your kitchen table exasperated, staring at the seventy-fifth email you had to send for the committee you begrudgingly agreed to lead (because no one else would), depleted of sleep and energy and time and relaxation.

And you wonder for the millionth time, “Why on earth did I ever say yes to this?”

A few weeks ago, I spent a weekend with a group of women talking about invitations. We were led by author and spiritual director Adele Calhoun. In her book Invitations from God, Adele makes this bold statement: “Invitations shape who we know, where we go, what we do and who we become. Invitations can challenge and remake us. They can erode and devastate. And they can also heal and restore us.”

If you’re like me, your heart lurches at the profound truth lodged in those sentences. Flashes of triumph and pangs of failure crash your mind at once. Failure: the time you said yes to leading the team you had no business leading, the relationship you endured that became a damaging mark on your soul, the opportunity you were afraid to risk that won’t quit nagging at the corners of your heart. Triumph: the job you took that helped you rediscover who you are, the adoption papers you signed that gave hope to new life, the pressure you had the guts to resist and thanked your good senses a million times over.

As influencers, we have a responsibility to be wise about which invitations we accept and which we decline. Our influence has reach. Our decisions affect the health of our families, our friendships, our teammates, our coworkers and most importantly our own souls.  But we often fall prey to the cultural lie that the more invitations we accept, the more valuable we are.

Continue Reading . . .

A Little Summer Update

I thought I’d get a chance to catch my breath this summer. Slow down, relax, catch an extra gulp of air here and there. Turns out it just wasn’t meant to be, but that seems to be the story of my life these days. I think I’m getting used to it. In any case, I’ve spent a lot of great time with my kids and watching them grow into the people they’ve been created to be has filled me up in ways I didn’t know was possible. It’s the kind of reflection parents need to keep us going–remember that the hard work is worth it, and never really done.

In the meantime, I’ve worked on a few projects that have come to light that I thought would be fun to share.

An essay I wrote got accepted as a chapter in a book called Always There which came out in April. Another short piece I wrote on forgiveness landed on my doorstep last week as part of the Everyday Matters Bible for Women and I worked behind the scenes to give some editorial direction for Lisa Chan’s new video series True Beauty produced by Flannel and my friend Steve Carr (more on that to come).

I’m continuing to manage the FullFill blog for my friend Elisa Morgan and had a piece on friendship in the spring digizine and wrote this recent blog post. And writing for the Redbud blog always makes my heart sing (my latest post here). I just wrapped up a piece for a print publication on youth depression based on the IVP book When Life Goes Dark by Richard Winter that will come out this fall. My most recent post at Strangely Dim just went up yesterday, which I have to admit, I kind of like. I’ll leave you with a small excerpt below which you can click through to keep reading (please do!).

As for you, I hope you’re enjoying the last moments of summer and remembering to catch a little breath yourself.

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One of my favorite moments of the 2012 Olympic Games was when Great Britain’s Jessica Ennis snagged a gold medal in the heptathlon. If you didn’t see it, I’m sorry you missed it. Headed into the last event of the competition–the dreaded 800 meters–all Ennis had to do was finish respectably and she’d win gold. But with an entire stadium on their feet, and an entire country’s hopes pinned on her shoulders, Ennis did more than just finish respectably. She smoked the pack. Nike must have been on to something: she totally found her greatness.

I think I wept.

Continue Reading . . . (scroll down one post)

Reflecting

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Orlando, wrapping up the final hours of a conference I attended for work.

I have a few perks to my job, none of which are more enjoyable than spending time with thoughtful writers who are passionate about our world and the difference they dare to make. I spent an exorbitant amount of time with two particularly prolific thinkers, a privilege that was ridiculously delightful and immeasurably profound. Now, looking out at a gloomy Florida skyline — the bustle of Disney just miles down the street and the reality of my frenetic suburban life a few hours away — I wish I could muster up a touch more energy to capture my thoughts. Because they’re the kind that stir and poke and church and mean.

But after being in the presence of men of great and lasting influence, all I can manage is to sit quietly and reflect. And I suppose (a text graciously thanking me from one of them just lit up my screen *sigh*), that, yes, reflecting quietly is just what I need.