Wednesday, June 21, 2017

My Life Didn't Turn Out the Way I Thought It Would, But Then Again, I'm Not Finished

I'm almost 40. I'm almost 40 pounds overweight. I want a successful career, but I don't work at getting better as much as it will take to succeed. I'm still flaky and disorganized. My marriage and motherhood require actual intentional daily work to choose to love my husband and kids well. It is a tiresome battle to see all of the amazing things they do instead of focusing on the things they don't do or mess up. It takes exhaustive efforts not to compare the way my life has turned out with the way I think others' lives have turned out. And most of the time, I fail at not comparing. Much of the time, I see the worst. I feel stuck. And I see only the ways I have failed to live up to what I expected for my life.

To say it mildly, my life isn't what I thought it would be. 

I thought it would be easier to be a mom, a wife, a Christian, a writer... I thought it would be easier to be healthy. But it's not. It's really hard.  Like giving up pizza for life kind of hard.  Because the truth is being THAT version of myself takes a whole lot of growing, and like Ben Foote taught at Flatirons Church a few weeks ago, growth takes time. 

The night before Ben Foote's talk, my husband and I celebrated with our friends. We popped champagne, gave toasts, cried and gushed over the accomplishments of two of our dear friends. We feasted, laughed and carried on celebrating their persistence. We rejoiced at all of the amazing things that have finally come to fruition after we watched them work so hard and fall short on for so many years.

One of the things we celebrated that night, was our dear friend, John Paul Robb's dream coming true.

JP grew up in Boston. He watched the city's iconic marathon take place growing up, and in 2010, he ran his first attempt to qualify for it. He was convinced he’d qualify with no problem. He was wrong. He didn’t qualify. He tried again. No dice. Again. And again and again. Each time believing THIS time was the one. He tried to qualify in race after race for six years. Six years of running and training, tracking his times, tapering, tweaking his regimen. Six years of eating kale and beets. Six years of modifying everything in order to qualify. Six years of sweat and waking up early. Six years of not good enough to qualify. Six years of almost, but not quite. His fans and supporters watching him finish eight marathons with a face that said, "Yep, I just ran 26.2 miles, but it's not quite good enough again." And finally, after logging 14,000 miles, which, by the way, is like running from LA to New York five times. It's like 1/15th of the way to the moon. It's like traveling the Oregon Trail six and a half times without ever dying of dysentery...  After all that, one sweet day, on his ninth marathon, he did it. He qualified for the Boston Marathon. And on April 17th, 2017, he ran that race, his dreams coming true beside his family and friends in his beloved hometown.

(JP is on the left with the blue socks)

These are the stories God writes. These are the stories that we love. The ones God uses to show us how to grow and persist in the face of life, setbacks, struggles, grief... because as Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” (John 16:33)

Celebrating that night was inspiring. It was full of life and joy and honor in our friendship, but more than that, it was celebrating sanctification, as the Bible calls it... Because what made that night of celebrating wasn't the champagne. It wasn't the food. It was the eight failures and the eight times he tried again, through injury and kids and weather and fighting and believing he would never make it, but trying again anyway... And finally succeeding.

So, if sanctification is a holy process...

If growing, changing, becoming a better person is holy, then maybe my failures are holy too.  

Maybe, even if my life is not anywhere near the way I thought it would be, it could still be holy. Maybe it is holy to try again and again to get healthy. Maybe it is holy to realize how I have failed my children, apologize, and try again. Maybe it is holy to put my writing out there and get rejected. Maybe this life I'm living that is riddled with failure and messing up is, in fact, holy, so long as I'm chasing after God and His will for me. Because I'm growing. I am trying again. I am moving at a pace that is slower than molasses in January strapped to the back of giant tortoise in a headwind, but I am moving forward. I am positive it still won't turn out the way I thought it would, but from what I know to be true of God, it will be much, much better.

Emily Donehoo is the only female in a family of five. She is a former High School English Teacher and National Trainer for the College Board. These days, when she isn’t scrubbing toilets, administering timeouts, working at book fairs, attempting to tackle dinner, laundry, homework help, dishes, and a preschooler’s incessant questions, she writes authentically about the hard stuff that really matters, hoping to uncover the truth that God has for us whether it makes us cry from laughter, pain or both at the same time. Read more of her writing here

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Thank Goodness for Grace

By Maggie Bartlett

Minutes before my husband proposed, I threw up. Apparently, I’m a cute thrower-upper. He planned to propose the night before, but around lunchtime that Friday, I started to feel queasy. We were supposed to get dinner and go to an art show. And get engaged. But I didn’t know that. I spent that afternoon asleep, in the bathroom.

When he came over that evening to pick me up, Travis found that I wasn’t exaggerating. I was sick. Understandably, he panicked. We canceled our fake plans and he drove me to my parents’ house for the night since my roommate was having a dinner party for her work friends and me throwing up in the bathroom between “Hello” and “Nice to meet you” wouldn’t have been good networking. I started to perk up before the drive, both of us thinking I might be better, his plans possibly restored. But then, as the car was moving, I opened the door and threw up all over the road. There was no chance of Travis putting a ring on it that night.

The next morning, I woke up to snow falling after a long night spent in the fetal position. I also woke up to a nice big zit on my forehead. I was feeling glam.

All day, my family and Travis peeked in “just to check on me.” They also thought it would be a good idea for me to take a walk because it would make me “feel better.” While I appreciated their care, concern and good ideas, I let them know that a woman who had spent the last 48 hours in the bathroom and popped a zit on her forehead that morning was not interested in taking a walk, especially in the snow. I eventually grew tired of my mom, my brother, my dad and my soon-to-be-fiancé sharing stories about how great walks were and how walks always made them feel better so I obliged. I put on my brother’s sweatpants (the only comfy pants I could find in the house), my mom’s snow boots and a big puffy jacket, and Travis and I headed out in the snow. I’ve never seen that man so excited to take a walk. We made it around the corner and I began to feel fatigued (and cold, because it was SNOWING) and asked if we could go home. He said no, which I found very rude and lacking in compassion.

“Just a little farther,” he insisted.

As we began to turn the corner into a nearby field, I stopped, leaned over and puked. When I finished, I whined, “Can we go home now?” Travis just shook his head and said, “Did you get it all out?” He was doing such an excellent job of ensuring I would say yes.

Moments later, we were standing under two snow-covered twinkling trees (he strung lights on them the morning before) and he handed me a card and a journal. I was overcome. He said nice things, while I pretended to comprehend what was happening. We both cried as he asked me to be his wife. We stayed there in the snow for a long time floating between laughter and tears. I couldn’t believe this man wanted to marry me, expressing his affection for me during the height of my beauty—vomiting, zits, greasy hair and all. It was the greatest compliment I have ever received.

Later, when we shared the story with friends and family, everyone joked that it was a classic Maggie and Travis story—imperfect, sweet, fun—such an appropriate way for us to get engaged. But it was one of my Young Life girls that brought a new perspective. Her text back to me went something like this: “Oh my gosh, MAGGIE!!!!! It’s the best story ever told!!!! Even though you were feeling ratchet and looking ratchet, he asked you to be his wife!! It’s like Jesus. He loves us even though we don’t deserve it, even when we’re covered in mud and blood and throw up, and Travis showed you that tonight!!!! I’m SO happy for you!!!”

How cool is that? I’ll never forget the story of our engagement, for so many reasons. Neither of us could have orchestrated that. Something so sweet and exciting also became a powerful reminder of the Lord’s love for me. When I’m feeling cranky, irritable and unlovable, bogged down by my sin and mess, I remember that story. 

I cannot fully grasp God’s unconditional love or grace, but he wove himself into that moment to give me a tangible reminder of his love. It releases me from the cage of my depravity, nudging me to offer myself some kindness and grace.

We all feel unlikable and obnoxious sometimes. We’re aware of our hurtmistakes and shortcomings. Sometimes we wonder why people would even love us or want to be around us. But then Jesus sneaks in distracting us from the lies, urging us to pause and remember how loved we are, asking us to look up from the muck and mire for just a second to rest in the extravagance and abundance of his love. Yes, we are sinners and yes, he loves us anyway. Thank goodness.

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved." - Ephesians 24-5

Maggie Bartlett is a Colorado native, living in Denver with her husband. She works at a marketing agency and loves to write, climb mountains and travel in her free time.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

When Trying Harder Leads to Exhaustion

By Rebecca Barnes

My parents taught me to finish what I started. They told me not to give up. When I failed, they encouraged me to try harder. This is how 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzles are put together. Trying harder is how spaghetti sauce jars are loosened, lawnmowers are started, and marriages are fixed. This is how you wait through tough circumstances and watch for people to come around. Problem is, sometimes it just doesn’t work.

We took a small child into our home a few years ago after we found out she was being abused. We felt God had compelled our compassion toward her. So we rolled up our sleeves and tried hard to love her well. I was determined. I wanted to finish what I started and not give up—until last year.

At that point, the cumulative effect of years of her pain had taken its toll on me. It pushed me down nostril deep in the dirt. Not giving up was not possible. I had to give up every day. I had to collapse on my bed, admit defeat, and begin planning my attack for the next day. And those plans began to feel more and more like choosing a new spot to bang my head against a wall. 

Trying harder was not working—it was just tiring.

Part of my exhaustion was grief. I was mourning the dreams of how I thought my family should be. I was mourning the peace that had been displaced in our home by battles, bombs, explosions and rubble. I couldn’t move forward. I could only allow myself to be tormented by the loss, rather than accepting it.

What was worse is that since my view was that God had charged us to care for this kiddo, I was angry with God. Why wasn’t he helping me?

I started thinking that maybe God wasn’t exactly like my parents. I don’t think he wants us to always try harder and never give up. I think he knows that some things can’t be finished. The way he worked out our salvation was not dependent on us trying. He did all the trying and the never giving up. He finished that.

But I didn’t like being saved and still feeling miserable. I wanted peace. I had to work on the miserable. I realized I was standing on the beach yelling at the ocean for washing away my sand sculpture.

So I started working on each moment. I started trying harder to appreciate the tiny things that were okay. I breathed through the trials. I prayed more. And I tried to be okay with giving up and just falling back into the Lazy Boy recliner of God’s grace and providence. 

Instead of trying harder, I worked on dependency. (I realize that’s oxymoronic.) But it helped me focus more on God’s power and work on believing in his all-knowing and all-loving ways.

I’m trying not to throw fits on the beach. I’m trying to look out at the ocean and trust.

Rebecca Barnes is the curriculum director for Summit Kids Ministry at Flatirons. She is married to an amazing man, who encourages her faith and listens to her typing a lot. She has three daughters and a son-in-law who she likes to cook for. She lives in Old Town Lafayette because it’s a little eclectic, like her.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


By Dianne Boice

I’m 53-years-old and I had no idea that watching the first episode of Anne with an “E” on Netflix today would make me cry.  Deeply.  Thoroughly.

My name is Dianne.  I was raised in a large Catholic family and my parents originally named me after “Blessed Mother’s Mother”: Saint Anne.  I’m the fourth child and the only girl, a huge event after three boys.  My parents planned to have a dozen children. Instead, they had half-a-dozen. 

The story goes that my dad felt my name wasn’t just right. After a fitful attempt at sleeping, he got up in the middle of the night when I was a few days old to change my birth certificate. Anne became Dianne, back in the days when the certificate came home with the new baby. I clearly remember my history teacher in high school returning my graded exam to me loudly proclaiming “Dianne with two n’s!”

I grew up, got married, had a daughter and then a son. We read the Anne of Green Gables series out loud together. We watched the movie many times. Richard Farnsworth, the actor who played Matthew Cuthbert, was the best. He loved Anne so much, and his quiet acting made me cry every time. That elderly bachelor wanted Anne to be his daughter as soon as he saw her at the train station. Matthew even bought her a puffed sleeved dress. Matthew wanted her all along. He never did want a boy. 

(Watch this for a snippet of the movie.) 

Matthew’s love for Anne mirrors God’s love for all of us girls. We are all like Anne. We want to be loved. We want to be wanted, to belong, to be family. Even after we are adopted into God’s Kingdom, we long to be loved by our Heavenly Father here on earth. Deeply. Fully. Now.

Tears. Wonderful, cleansing tears cover this little girl in my 53-year-old body. I'm reminded that I am the apple of God’s eye and so are you. 

We are beautifully made, strong, smart and sometimes we talk too much. 

We have vivid imaginations. We love to laugh and be silly. Can you imagine how great it will be in heaven someday, resting in God’s arms, eating at His table? 

He loves us so much.I’m thankful we get a peek at God’s love through books, movies, dance, music, and art. While we are here on earth, our real home is in heaven. And remember, God wanted us all along.

“You are beautiful for you are fearfully and wonderfully made.” –Psalm 139:14

(NOTE - After watching the first season of Anne with an “E” on Netflix, I don’t recommend it. The movie made in 1985 is far better. Call me old fashioned, it’s ok. Not everything needs updating.)

Dianne Boice is the proud mama of two adult children who live in L.A. and Africa.  After teaching elementary school art in the Denver area for 5½ years, she’s headed to Beijing to continue teaching little ones to be creative. With each passing day, this daughter of the King is growing her faith and laughter through mistakes and successes while loving others.