Why You Became a Bird for Me

wd052wdw201412069660577 You woke up at 6:30 a.m.

For many parents this is normal--- bless their hearts.  Some children wake up at the ungodly hours of 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. Every. Morning.

But you have never woken up that early. I've spent most of your five years on earth waking you up at 9:00 a.m. because I cannot bear for you to not be awake and alive and being you for another second.

But last week it happened. 6:30 a.m. and you called my name from your bed. I went into your room groggy--eyed and coffee-less and found a wiry, hyper, smiling from ear-to-ear little girl who was ready to conquer the world.

"Hi baby- you're up early," I said to you, still blinking away the sleep from my eyes.

"I know- I can't help it. I'm just ready to talk, talk, talk!!!" you said with reckless abandon, " So what do you want to talk about mom?"

"Well- I want to talk about how I need to go downstairs and get some coffee and sit outside on the porch for about five minutes so I can wake up. Then we can talk talk talk."

Your face fell. Hurt and shocked, bewildered that I didn't have a list of five things to talk about, but instead, preferred coffee.

"Mom, I really want us to stay in my bedroom all morning and just talk alllllll morning."

"I want to do that too AnnieBoo- but first I kind of have a morning routine that helps me be a better person (coffee and creating melodramas between the birds from my view on the front porch makes me a way better person)."

I suggested we go downstairs. Have breakfast. And then go back upstairs and talk talk talk.

You countered. You always counter. You would be an amazing lawyer with your counter-offers, ridiculous concessions, and uncanny ability to find loopholes in the system. Your counter offer was this:

"OK Mom. You go downstairs and get coffee and then come back upstairs with your coffee and I will make it feel like outside and then we can talk talk talk!!!"

Usually, your counter offers are so brilliant, so kind, so creative that I actually concede just to see how you are going to pull it off.

"Deal." I said.

What happened next, Annie, I will remember until the day I die.

Coffee in hand, still groggy-eyed but won over by your precious persistence, I came back to find your bedroom door closed.

I knocked. And you said "Come in" in a strange, high-pitched voice.

I opened your door to a sea of green. In the five minutes since I had gone downstairs for coffee you had taken every green colored book and covered your bedroom floor with green grass. Then you individually selected animals- you have about one hundred of them- that like to be in the grass. Bunnies. A chicken. A turtle. All of your stuffed cats and dogs. Two big rabbits. And your frog, Friggly.

And you?

You had rummaged through your costume box, pulled out a pair of butterfly wings, put them on and were standing in your bed- with all the blankets pulled around you like a nest- and you were chirping and tweeting like a bird.

And with coffee in my hand and tears in my eyes and the biggest smile I have experienced in a long time, starting from my toes and landing right on my lips- I realized all over again just how small my own agenda is sometimes.

And I realized what I might get instead if I lay my own desires down. I remembered why people are more important than coffee and birds. Though coffee and birds are a close second. Doing things out of order, not in the plans or the agenda, or the rhythm of my normal routine- laying down the selfishness that keeps me from being selfless is far better for my soul than what I perceive I need to be a better person.

The five-year-old girl who only wanted to snuggle in bed with her momma and talk talk talk! The girl who decided to create the outside world and become a bird so that I would stay put and just do things a little differently. You taught me all over again that sometimes my agenda is worth laying down.

A lot of times my agenda is worth laying down.



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Worst Disney World Mom Ever

Looky-look here people: I will hire two teenage girls who resemble Elsa and Anna, purchase them elaborate costumes, make my husband be Olaf, rearrange my living room furniture and cover it all in white sheets to make it look like an ice castle and then let Annie throw toilet-paper-snow into every unvacuumable crevice in this house before I wait five freaking hours with sugar-laden, sticky, hot, tired, emotional little GIRLS to meet the cast of Frozen. I am a terrible Disney mom.

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Here We Go: My First Book!

Road-To-Becoming-Mockup-3Remember that moment in school when you walk into a giant cafeteria and pray to God that your eyes will make eye contact with someone, anyone, just so you have a place to sit down un-alone? That feeling of insecurity and fear surging through your veins, threatening to define you when you fall flat on your face or come up lacking? I’ve felt that way twice this year.

The first was in the fall at a small retreat of highly respected Christian authors, speakers and leaders. The fact that I was invited befuddles me. As I walked into the registration room that day, the hallways were lined with the voices behind books and blogs that have deeply inspired and challenged me. One woman ran a record label, another had been on the New York Times bestseller list and sold a million books, another was starring on a hit reality show, another was the women’s pastor of one of the largest churches in America, and another had written one of the most iconic worship songs of the past decade. The list of who’s who went on and on. And I felt it. Eighth grade all over again. Heart racing. Stuttering like I had never held an adult conversation. Sweating. Completely convinced that my name had ended up on the invitation list by mistake. I thought I was going to throw up. Insecurity and fear coursed through my veins in a way I hadn't experienced since junior high.

And I sort of feel that way today too.

OK. That’s totally not true.

I feel exactly that way today.

Not because it’s tax day. Or because my itty-bitty-baby girl turned 5-years-old today. Or even because my husband was just wheeled back into a surgery room to have a tumor removed from his back. I am sure those are all great reasons for one to experience fear and insecurity, but those aren’t fueling mine right now.

What’s fueling my fear and insecurity today is an invitation that I am giving to the people around me to join in the printing and publishing of my debut book, The Road to Becoming. Writing a book is exciting. But inviting people to help fund that book is terrifying.

Because what if I fall flat on my face? What if I come up lacking? What if I find my voice is irrelevant?

Fear and insecurity loom.

I feel like I am looking for a seat in the cafeteria all over again. Like I am holding my breath at the retreat, hoping that the New York Times best seller sitting next to me at the rustic outdoor dinner will make room for me at her table.

And I feel silly. I know all the scriptures about not living in fear. I know all the Brené Brown quotes about being brave and vulnerable (Brené: Please give private sessions for independent creators launching Kickstarter campaigns. A support group? I need a support group.). I know what Madeleine L’Engle says about being faithful to the creation, as it is the only thing within our power to control. I know these things. I do.

But the fear is still here.

And I think that’s OK. Because at the end of the day there is a difference in being afraid and living in fear.

Living in fear limits you. Locks you in. Leaves you paralyzed. But being afraid doesn’t hold you hostage or hijack your hopes. Being afraid is an emotion; not a way of living. So yes. I am trembly and anxious and fighting the voices of insecurity and there is fear.

But I send my invitation out all the same. Sweaty palms and all.

Because what if I jump and I find I was always made to fly? What if I make eye contact and realize someone saved me a spot?

Because what if I try even when I am scared and God’s courage meets me there? What if you take the invitation and join me- or not- but either way I’m ok?

Faith isn’t the absence of fear. Or failure, even. Faith happens in the middle of fear and failure. And fortune, even.

So today I give the invitation away. I am terrified and exhilarated. To be certain, there is a lot of faith wrapped up in the whole thing. A lot of believing that I am walking into becoming the person I was created to be and creating the books and music I was created to make. And a lot of hope that many of you will accept my invitation and join me on this journey of turning my first book into a reality.

I wrote a book. Like a REAL LIVE BOOK. Finally. I’ve been trying to write a real live grown-up book since I was four! And I cannot wait any longer. I am ready to jump. And I think I will find- that I was made to fly.

(And by the way, once you force yourself over the edge and make the jump, the fear subsides and the fun begins. So here we go…)

Will you join me in making my first book?


Silent Sounds

IMG_6883 The best gift my mom ever gave me was the gift of silence. Not that she was a quiet person to live with. She wasn’t. She still isn’t. She currently lives alone on 17 acres of land down a long dirt driveway, but even the birds and horses know when she comes home. If mom needs a set of listening ears, any ol' bird will do. I find great solace in the fact that Francis of Assissi talked to birds too. He ended up a Saint, so there is complete hope for my mom. She processes life with whatever human, animal or tree that is nearby. I like this about her. But she also processes much of life in silence. She taught my sisters and I this gift of silence at an early age.

Now that I am a mom, I know unwaveringly that some of this silence-teaching was for her own sanity.

“Everybody go to your room and create something with toilet paper and scotch tape or read a book or take a nap. I don’t care what you do in there. Go! Now! One hour! Don’t bother your sisters!”

They were moments for her to decompress and find rest amidst the chaos of raising three girls that were only five years a part. But beyond those moments of sanity-silence there were also moments of purposeful silence. I remember them as far back as five-years-old. Hiking on trails, wandering aimlessly in the woods behind our house, being quiet to listen for small animals, or laying in bed at night. Mom intentionally created (forced) moments of silence so that we could listen.

We weren’t always sure what we were supposed to be listening for.

A big booming voice, a whisper, an answer, a condemnation, a challenge, a bird?

But we did know this: God talked to mom. And if we would just shut-up, we might hear God too.

My earliest memories of purposeful silence are at the beach in Florida for youth camp. My mom, a youth minister for a large church, would start each day with something she created called “Silent Sounds.” She wrote short devotionals for the students that ended with an invitation to reflect on a passage of scripture and questions that could be spoken out to the ocean, where presumably God vacationed. Teenagers would spread out all over the beach. I watched them as a little girl and wondered what God would say to them. Undoubtedly there were students who just built sand castles and carved curse words into the sand with sticks. But others were brave enough to look out into the unknown forever and speak out questions to this mysterious God of the universe and wait for answers to wash ashore.

For years my mom led students through this practice. She did so when I was five-years-old and was still doing so when I was fifteen-years-old and she was my youth pastor and I was sitting along the shore, reading her words, contemplating whether I was brave enough to listen for God’s voice. Brave enough to ask for answers.


At some point in the day we had a chance to talk about the moments on the beach if we wanted to. And ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been struck with how many different types of people will speak up, longing to share their experience during those silent moments. The thing is, people who are brave enough to sit on the beach in silence and ask the questions are often desperate for an answer. And they usually get an answer. Only it’s not usually the answer they were looking for. And they are so taken back by what they do hear that they want to speak it out loud- to verify it, validate it, gift it to others, to know they are not alone.

We are usually tempted to sit in silence and ask for answers. During times of sharing, people often started by saying they were looking for answers about their job, their boyfriend, their cheerleading tryouts, their family, their shame, their education and the ubiquitous 'what am I supposed to do with my life?' And those questions aren’t bad.

Only, God never really seemed to answer them for people.

What usually turned up in the washing waves, salty air and scratchy sand looked less like specific answers to our most burning questions and more like platitudes of peace, purpose and power.

I am here. I am holy. You are loved.

People always seemed surprised and relieved. There was a sense that they had seen God’s  holiness and kindness as they dug their toes deep into the sand and their eyes scanned the horizon to see where their help would come from. They may not have walked away knowing whether they should ask for a raise, quit a job, or pursue a new relationship, but they knew all over again that God was present and Holy and they were loved…

and somehow that was enough.

Today, I am (yet again) at a crossroads in my life looking for answers. And everything in me wants Jesus to write out an itinerary, hand it off to a dove and send it to me down here on earth in a tiny scroll decorated with ribbons and cupcake stickers, “Jenny’s Scroll of Answers Straight From God!,” it would say.

And yet if history is any indicator of what happens next it is this: God’s will for me right now is very broad. It could be accomplished through any number of jobs, living in any number of cities, pursuing any number of passions. And that type of freedom scares me. No wonder we have created a rather unbiblical theology that imagines God telling us exactly what to do, exactly how to do it, and exactly when to act on every single decision in our lives. I wish it were that easy. Except that then we would never, as my friend says, run wild through the river Jordan laughing and smiling as we bravely, nervously, beautifully pursue a dream concocted deep in our hearts that only makes sense in light of our love for Jesus.

The truth is, some moments in life God seems to have a specific will for us but other times (the majority it seems) He stands alongside of us and says, “What would you like to do? What do you dream it looking like? Ok! Let’s go then!”

If history is any indicator of how this all plays out it is this: When I am silent before the Lord looking for answers, more times than not the answer given to me is no answer at all.

Because in the sacred silence I find something else and it is better than the specific answers I so desperately longed for.

In the silence there is a reshaping of my perspective, a reshaping of my fears, a reshaping of my questions. My answer-crazed heart is steadied and I find God at the edge of the ocean dancing in the clouds, rushing in the tides of clear water, pushing against the back of my legs, running fierce back to sea, inviting me to look at a broader pallet painted wild and free, declaring the only answer I need-

I am here. I am holy. You are loved.

At the waters edge I am invited to partake in a new kind of answer. An answer that is really no answer at all. A reminder of God’s holiness, my belovedness, and a sea of freedom in-between.


King Amon, Margaret Feinberg and Attempting Lent

I totally failed at life yesterday. I stepped in dog poop, my book manuscript was officially rejected from a third publishing house, I cussed and hollered at an invading army of ants in my kitchen as if they could understand me, I lusted over everybody else’s life, and narrated (in my mind) a citizens revolt and takeover of the Department of Motor Vehicles. I may have, in my mind, also killed off some of Jesus’ family-lineage in a coo-takeover too. I blame that on Margaret Feinberg.

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