Friday, March 30, 2012

Allow Me to Introduce...Heather

You know how there’s an acknowledgement section in the front of most books?

I think often of the people in my life who help shape not only the writing on this blog, but my life. They listen to my rants, pray regularly for me (they know I need it after my rants), and speak truth where I need to hear it. They call me, write me, text me, and remain an ongoing source of support and encouragement. I am so grateful for their life-giving presence in my days and weeks.

I’ve mentioned a few friends off and on in my blog. But I wanted to give you a chance to hear from them too. Not just know their name but experience who they are.

And so, allow me to introduce my first guest, Heather Eure.

Heather and I met while I was working on a curriculum called Rio. (Actually, I’m still working on it, but that’s a saga for another day…). Heather and I struck up a friendship in no time at the first event our company held for some partner churches. She was assigned to my group and a good amount of the creativity in my lessons is attributed to her input. Let me add two words: relay races.

Heather and I talked a lot at the original partner gathering, and we really haven’t shut up since, either of us. She is a woman of depth, strength, and wisdom. She is also one of the wittiest people I know.

Heather lives in Hertford, North Carolina, with her husband David and their three sons: Seth, Liam, and Hayden.

The world needs more of Heather’s voice, and so I’m happy to share it with you. I know it will make you smile.

My Three Sons
by Heather Eure

My boys, count three of 'em, are feral.

The weather here in North Carolina has been unseasonably warm. So that means we needed to get outside and do some yard work. As a family. Sounds ideal, right? No. No, it isn't. Not ever. 

No sooner are the tasks given, the mood shifts. They need to create "The Rumble in the Backyard Jungle." In order to do yard work, my delightful children must brawl it out first.

The oldest son (Seth) decides to spray middle son's (Liam) shoes with a water hose. No one touches or disrespects Liam's shoes. With the reflexes of a ninja, Liam throws his shoe with great force and accuracy, straight for the well-groomed head of Seth. KA-THUD!! Right on his gourd. Surprised, I blurt out: "Who throws a shoe when they're mad, honestly?!?" Seth, rubs his noggin and replies, "It's commonplace in some middle eastern countries. It's actually a high insult." 

Seth then commences to chase his brother around the house, hitting him with his favorite redneck hat, and then Liam grabs it, and throws it on top of the house. I'm yelling, "What is wrong with you two?!? Every single time I ask you guys to do something..." The youngest (Hayden), who has been observing and taking mental notes the whole time quips, "And that is an even higher insult. Get it, Mom? His hat is on the roof."

So now, with enough time spent stalking his prey, Hayden makes his move and runs into both his brothers, knocking them flat. Just because he could.  I'm hollering at Hayden to stop using pro-wrestling moves, the other two screech and squawk at being victims of The Flying Burrito. 

That's when I begin to notice my neighbors. Next door, across the street, down the street...are all looking our way, talking and pointing. I'm pretty sure I saw words mouthed such as, "savages," "unfit mother," "Malcolm in the Middle episode," and "hot dog" (I think that guy was just hungry).

Sure, I wanted to explain to each and every neighbor how my boys possess love, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, and surely, if they knew them they'd see joy, gentleness, patience, and self-control at some point during the week. month.

But does it really matter what they think of this trio of now laughing, feral boys? Not really. Because I know who they are, and what's in their hearts. And God knows them more intimately than I do. Although, they will have to hear it from me later that evening, and boy, oh boy...will they be sorry, I know that God is the one who will nudge and correct my boys in a much more effective way. And He does.

After a little while the boys apologized for any harm they may have caused each other, and worked together to get Seth's hat off the roof, and towel dried Liam's shoes. They also finished the yard work. Together.

Basically. Without fighting. Much.

"If we only have the will to walk, then God is pleased with our stumbles." -C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Wounded in the Pews

All week, I have been fighting the urge to rant about the state of the American church. Believe me, nothing gets me going faster than that. Well, except maybe motherhood.

(You know how interviewers often ask people what their six-word memoir title would be? Mine would be Do Not Even Get Me Started. Followed by 200 pages of rant. Probably. Maybe. We’ll see. I usually work it out as I write. Just like I’m doing now…)

What prompted me to get so upset about the state of the church? It started with some encounters at a Ministry Summit last weekend. The gathering was, appropriately titled, reFuel, and let me tell you what I saw was a handful of worn-out, discouraged Children’s and Family pastors.

I listened to their stories. Many were frustrated by a lack of respect and continuity among the leadership at the churches.

One woman was told by her senior pastor to think of herself as a “paid volunteer,” implying that she really has no say in anything. She relayed this comment with a hint of sadness in her voice. I could tell she felt undervalued, simply as a human being, not too mention overworked. She’s only paid for part time and works seven days a week, to then have her voice stripped from her by someone who should be supporting her. I heard similar situations from others.

Wounds. All around me.

In the first session, we took a personal inventory of several areas in our life: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual. Because of a funeral and me traveling the week prior, I was feeling a bit low and marked somewhere near the middle (on a scale of 1-5, 5 being the best). Then, we shared with one another. I was shocked to hear mostly 1s and 2s.

The second day, we were asked to share around our tables some ways that we create sacred space in our life. I kept my ears open. No one in our group had anything. I finally chimed in with an explanation of the way I art journal and how this helps me find what God is up to in my life.

The people at my table looked stunned. Then one grabbed a pen and said, “How did you learn about this? When do you do it? Where can I get information?”

I saw exhaustion everywhere. In an afternoon session on ordering your personal life, the leader posed the question of who in the group had prayer partners who regularly pray for them.

I was one of two people who raised their hands. Two.

People, we are doing this to ourselves and in turn, to one another. We are not giving ourselves permission to just be and not do. We are so focused on what we need or want to accomplish that we don’t see the people beside us. Hurting. Groping through another day, not even just another Sunday.

After the session on personal life, I turned to a woman next to me. The day before, she told me about struggling with being caught between two ministries, each of them believing they “owned” her. Having exchanged e-mails addresses already, I invited her to send prayer requests to me whenever she wanted so that I could pray for her.

She looked at me. No words. Just tears forming.

“Oh, thank you,” she eventually said. “I have been asking God to send someone to pray for me for four years.”

Four years is too long, dear friends. Too long to come alongside one another in a tangible way.

We talk about our churches being places where we “connect” and “be Jesus” to one another. But really we’re doing our best to add people to our pews (chairs, whatever) and programs by entertaining them and manipulating them to serve and give and join a Bible study and do and do and do more. It’s about our agenda. In the midst of it all, we’re not even caring for people’s most basic needs, including our own!

It begins with you and me. As much as I want to yell and make generalizations about the church, and trust me, I think some very real concerns exist there, it is the hurting person in the pew that Jesus notices, and I want to too.

So, to the person who is struggling today, I say this to you: Jesus sees you.

He sees you, and He hears you. You are not alone, even though the crowd around you is clamoring for attention and pushing you aside (Mark 10:46-52).

And, I’m sorry. I’m sorry for the times I didn’t stop to hear you or see you when you were hurting in the pew or seconds away from tears in the hallway at church, wondering if you should have dared to come at all. I’m sorry for any part I played in making you feel used and abused and undervalued.

Because, the truth is you’re not. You are of great worth in the sight of your King.

I’m going to keep trying to hear and see, just as Jesus does. I may not do it perfectly, due to my own issues of wanting to be seen, but I want to try. Maybe then, we can take a first step toward healing, when we pause long enough to see Jesus right next to us, saying, “What do you want me to do for you?”    

Sunday, March 18, 2012

What Filling Looks Like

“… my cup overflows.” –Psalm 23:5b

“I know it might not be part of your church background to do this, but we have some prayer stations set up at the end of the hallway,” the pastor directed. “Feel free to walk through them before you leave.”

“Oh, thank you. Maybe…” I answered. Inside, I thought to myself, Um, no. That’s kind of odd. I don’t think I’ll do that.


Remember this?

After I emptied my shelf, I didn’t want to fill it with just anything. I thought about what books have meant the most to me, the ones that wrote truth on my heart and helped me most to find myself, the self that God made me to be.

Here’s what sits there so far:

 The notebook on the far right is Finding Your Voice by Jen Lee

This is what filling looks like.

I use the word “filling” rather than “filled” because I believe it’s a process. Our lives are overrun with things that don’t belong: pride, shame, worry, judgment, and on and on. Jesus doesn’t call us to release those things so that we remain empty. He calls us to let go of them so that He can fill us with eternal pleasures: joy, gratitude, courage, love, and on and on.

I’ve noticed other areas of my life where filling is happening.

Last December, I lost my job. I figured I needed a new dream to go with my new season. Turns out, at my core, I’m still a writer (and probably always will be). Here’s the page I filled, in ten minutes one day, with an outline for an e-book project:

This is what filling looks like.

Last summer we moved. One dwelling place empty, another one we’re making into a new home. When I was cooking in the kitchen the other day, I turned around and saw this:

This is what filling looks like.


Last Friday I walked into that same church with the prayer stations. I entered through a different set of doors than I did eight years ago. When I saw the words “Prayer Labyrinth” in the Ministry Summit itinerary, I smiled.

I smiled because the girl who exited the east side without daring to take a prayer walk with Jesus is the same woman who entered the doors on the west side this weekend and now takes great delight in setting up prayer stations for others.

I smiled because God has filled me to overflowing with His goodness and grace, and I can’t help but spill over in praise and writing and prayer and art journaling and on and on.

I smiled because when I entered the Prayer Labyrinth yesterday, this was the first thing I saw:

“You always show me the path that leads to life. You will fill me with joy when I am with you. You give me endless pleasures at your right hand.” –Psalm 16:11

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I did not look like I belonged. She never treated me that way though.

After a harried wait for a haircut last Tuesday, I ran over to the mall to find something to wear to my great grandmother’s funeral. The previous weekend, I had spotted a cute black dress on my way out of the dressing room at Macy’s. There was a long line for the dressing room that Saturday, and I didn’t want to stand in it again. I should have just bought the dress and returned it if it didn’t fit. (Hindsight, you know?)

I found the rack again with no problem. Only trouble was my size was gone. Kae and I ventured into the Mall for a replacement dress. A few steps later, I entered a black-and-white-filled boutique.

The young store clerk greeted me, “How can I help you today?”

Now, I forgot to mention what I was wearing at the time. In addition to my haircut, which made my wet hair stick out all over the place, I had on an old t-shirt and my ripped jeans with tennis shoes and a sweatshirt. I had not really planned on shopping that day for a nice dress. I was hoping for a grab-and-go type of thing at Macy’s.

My appearance didn’t phase the young saleswoman. I told her what I needed, and within seconds, she had more than half a dozen items for me to try on.

Oh, she was good.

With amazing patience and flair, she offered helpful feedback on each item and presented appropriate accessories to go with each outfit, including the cutest red rose belt ever.

She never treated me as if I didn’t belong and was not phased when Kaelyn accidentally lost the TicTac from her mouth while admiring her candy on her tongue in the mirror. I should also mention that Kae shoved it back between her lips when I wasn’t looking. (Horror! I hate when people eat from the floor!)

Before too long, I had exactly what I needed and felt good about my purchase. Remarkable, considering that I stumbled in and was not feeling great about much that day.

The sales clerk took my dress to the cashier, directed me to the counter, and then disappeared. As I took the receipt, I looked for my helpful fashionista. She was nowhere to be found. I asked the cashier to thank the young girl who was helping me and please tell her she did a great job.

“Oh, you mean Maddie. Sure, I will tell her.”


As I stumbled my way around several states for the funeral and then back home again, I thought about Maddie. And I thought about Jesus.

As part of our weekly worship service each week, we pray a prayer of confession, and then pass words of peace to one another. Because God has reconciled Himself to us through Jesus, we can have peace.

It’s the next portion of the service that has me thinking. After the peace, each of makes our way up to the front to partake in communion. One by one, yet as a body of believers, we step forward.

Some days, I do this with confidence, probably only because somehow we managed to make it on time to church that day and none of us still has wet hair. Other days, it’s stumbling toward Jesus, feeling the residual effects of sin and brokenness and fighting the thoughts that I don’t belong or measure up.

But He bids me to come. He doesn’t bat an eye at me on the good days or the bad. He takes me as I am and offers me just what I need.

The body of Christ, broken for you. The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation.

Steadfast peace for my stumbling. Words of life for my weary, tired mind. A little black dress and matching cardigan for my grieving soul.

Maddie may have just been doing her job last Tuesday. But it didn’t feel that way to me. Somehow she managed to be present with me in my current circumstances and provide just what I needed in that moment.

How I am grateful for Maddie. She gave me a glimpse of Jesus.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Inspiration: This Week (Be Bright)

(Every once in a while, I like to share a list of things that are inspiring me. Here are the most recent items.)

Art Journaling...

A couple weekends ago, Kyla begged me to spend the afternoon art journaling. We hadn’t done it together in quite a while so we pulled out our magazines and markers and got to work.

I created three pages. Three. That is the most I’ve ever done in one sitting and when I was done, my first thought was, I feel more like myself!

Here’s the final page I did that afternoon:

Something about this picture strikes me because I’m not sure if I’m the mom or the little girl in it. All I know is that I long to be bright in every way – bold and intelligent. The other funny thing about this picture is that I hadn’t looked at the images since the day I did the page. Within this last week, I almost bought polka dot rain boots, and I did buy some pretty, sexy black heels to wear to an event on Saturday night.

Also, the dress I bought for the dinner was a bold peacock blue. Huh.


The last few months of my writing have been the most daring I’ve done. I’m glad about that. I don’t want to settle or resign myself to writing what’s safe. I hate reading books like that. I know the difference between an author who is writing for others and one who is writing for herself.

I subscribe to e-newsletters from Jeff Goins. Even though I follow his blog too, I love what he puts out to his subscribers. Here’s one of my favorite recent quotes from him:

The world doesn't need more safe, tame writing. It needs words that shake the heavens, that defy expectations and offend our sensibilities.

I have an idea for an e-book project. As I get started, I am attaching this quote in my work space and also on my computer. No tame writing allowed.

Madeleine L’Engle…

I finally finished A Circle of Quiet. Oh my. My life will never be the same.

I’ve also declared this year to be The Year of Madeleine L’Engle. I’ve never read her most popular book, A Wrinkle in Time. This is the 50th Anniversary of that book. In addition, I will probably work on reading more of her journals. (A Circle of Quiet was her first journal.)

I think one of the most important things that came from reading this book was a sense of freedom. Sometimes I think I’m crazy because I have the same propensity every morning to get up and write what’s true. This drive for communicating never goes away.

While I was reading A Circle of Quiet, I also picked up a book my husband Jeff ordered called Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. I’m about 3/4 of the way done with it. It has messed with me in good and bad ways.

The author, Michael Horton, is pretty black and white. I completely agree that America has lost sight of the true gospel. Our churches are country clubs filled with self-help seminars, that includes the “sermons.”

The true gospel is that all of humanity and this world are broken because of what happened at the Fall in Genesis 3. The only way this world, and we ourselves, can be restored is by Christ. God has a plan for redemption. A portion of it was fulfilled when Jesus conquered death through the resurrection. Redemption is still happening and will happen one final time when Christ returns and all is made right.

Horton argues that we don’t know this gospel, and I believe he is right. However, I've had trouble following him chapter after chapter because I believe his stance does not allow for much creativity in communicating the gospel. I had trouble figuring out how my passion for spiritual direction (a practice that explores knowing God and knowing who He created us to be in order to move toward the wholeness available in Christ) and writing might fit into sharing the good news of Christ with the world. I wrestled with this for days.

Madeleine put me at ease with these words:

The gap between our “real” and “actual” selves is, to some degree, in all of us; no one is completely whole. It’s part of what makes us human beings instead of gods. It’s part of our heritage from our mythical forebears, from Adam and Eve. When we refuse to face this gap in ourselves, we widen it.

Oh, sweet breath for my confused mind and heart! 

Again, I believe Michael Horton’s assessment is correct. But I love how God does not narrow the way we communicate the good news of His salvation. As we know, Madeleine spent the better part of her life sharing God’s truth through young adult fiction. I love her words and can’t seem to get enough.

Also, she helps me not feel so crazy on the days when I wonder how it’s possible to meld the artist/writer/wife/mom thing into living. She wondered the same. Somehow, she just kept marching on. I will do the same, drawing encouragement from her and others who know no other way than being who they are and obediently doing what they are called to do.

Monday morning…

How in the world can a Monday morning be inspirational? Over the weekend, Kyla was my shopping buddy. She helped me pick out my dress and heels on Saturday. Then, yesterday, we went to Target to get a couple of things for her.

She picked out a frilly peasant blouse with flowers on top and a pink striped cardigan. She was beaming in the dressing room.

She wanted to wear those items to school today. I noticed she took an extra amount of time getting ready this morning. When she came down, her hair was fixed up with a pretty clip. I told her she looked beautiful. (Side note: We talk often about how beauty is more than clothes or how we look. This morning it felt appropriate to affirm her efforts in choosing an outfit that expressed her so vividly and the time she took to care for herself.)

She said, “I looked at myself in the big mirror in your room. Is that okay?”

“Of course,” I replied.

From the next room, Kaelyn shouts, “I looked at myself too. I look weird!”

First of all, no she didn’t. Secondly, I have no idea where that comment came from!

In conclusion, I hope you each find a way to be bright and bold in your own manner this week.

(Sorry half of this post of bold and half is not. I tried over and over to fix it. Let's not talk about how many times or ways. Blerg. Hellooooo, Monday!)