Don’t get too comfortable…

Its a beautiful, 75 degree day in central Missouri. My windows are open, the sun is shining. Some might call it…..


September on Sweet Sandia (our backyard that we LOVE)

After eating a somewhat healthy lunch, taking my dog for a walk, I sat down to do some work. I have a fairly gigantic business deadline at the end of the month.. it was time to focus.

Except I felt really sleepy. Or I did. Until I saw my niece Jaime post an invite to her home tomorrow evening…

For a campfire.

Its Open. All can attend. If you live close to her and you see this, I’m certain she would invite you in. It could be the best way you’ve ever spent a Friday night. I’m not kidding.

What made my heart BURST was reading the responses to her invitation.

” What a great idea! Wish we lived closer! – do you mind if I steal it?”

“Love this – Can I borrow this idea?”

“Let me check my schedule – I so want to be there!”

and on…

and on….

and on.

One of my nephews helping to host a fire tomorrow with Mom Jaime.

I was reminded of the power of the fire. The power of community. The reality that we ALL are starving for the real, toe to toe, knee to knee, marshmallow to marshmallow connection that happens when we rub a few sticks together , gather up some chairs and just sit.

In the glow..

and the beauty..

and the warmth…. of the flames and of the friendships.

I could write a book.. and I just may… about my Philosophies of Fire (PH)ire 🙂

BUT FOR NOW…….. I want to encourage, challenge, coax…. you to look at your weekend. Could you find some space to build a fire, gather some friends, to sit pause and listen? If the first people you ask say no, will you keep asking? Will you google directions on how to build a fire if you’ve never learned? Would you get a bit uncomfortable to start something new? If you’re invited to a fire … would you say YES?

Here’s to the weekend. Here’s to connection. Here’s to all reading this …..

Could it be that the spark of community in your neck of the woods is supposed to start…

with YOU?

The first of our Michigan backyard fires . Summer 2015

Through the Eyes of an Amateur Assistant Soccer Coach

I had the opportunity this week to coach my son’s soccer team. It was my first solo coaching gig (is “gig” the right word for this?). I volunteered to help the other two dads on the first day of practice. I always seem to have two other boys in tow (where did they come from anyway?) and I’m never sure I can balance being mom and coach during practice and games. The commitment level of an assistant works well for me at this time. This week, however, both dads would be gone. Coaching duties were all on me. Having helped out with practices and few other games already I have found that I am LOVING this.


I should let you know, soccer is my favorite sport. I was a late comer as I started playing around age 12, but never stopped. I only took a break in college because I tore my ACL three times. I mean, some things in life just really slow you down. I helped coach a JV high school girl’s team where I taught for one year and when I moved to where we live now I found an adult woman’s team and joined. I haven’t played since I’ve had kids though, for fear of another ACL tear and slowing down mom life. But it seems this sport just calls my name every time I get close to a field. 

So here I am, coaching solo (honorable mention to the mom who helped with the bench players and Thomas the husband who made sure to back me up with eyes on the field and gathering kids when needed) on a week night, with 11 third and fourth grade boys all telling me what position they want to play at once. Thank heavens I had already mapped out positions for each 12 minute quarter ahead of time. Demands and decisions like that could have sunk me before the game began.

I won’t give you play by play of our hour long game but I will give you some of my favorite teachable moments of the evening.

Coaching, much like teaching, makes the person in charge the biggest learner of all. To stay one step ahead of the team I had to be prepared and a bit practiced. You can’t know exactly how things will play out, but you have to prepare for responses win or lose. 

There’s one player that constantly looks over at me on the sidelines, checking to see if his positioning is right. I give him lots of direction and encouragement when he looks over but when he’s deep in play, he doesn’t hear me at all. It might be because he knows just what to do in those times.  

One of our teammates was playing his first game, and he was the most confused about positions. He kept trying to take thrown-ins on the opposite side of the field that were meant for another of his team members. I kept telling him to come back towards the center so the boys would have a pass when needed. Its exhausting to cover the whole field.

A couple of our kids played goalie for the first time. Goalie is an intimidating position. It seems pretty laidback until the ball is barreling down the field right in your direction. Once it hits that large goalie box, you’re like a cat with hair standing on end trying to decide the best plan of attack. Not only that but everyone is yelling at you to get it out of the box. Once that ball gets past the line though, the goalie feels the weight of loss. But a save is the exact opposite. There is elation and pride that they did their part and kept the team safe. 

At one point of the third quarter we had a 3 pass succession and almost scored! What does that mean? Listen, at this age in rec soccer, a majority of the kids are just trying to take the ball away and keep possession themselves. They are only just beginning to learn that there is team around them, looking for space and trying to help out. Too often the kids don’t look up long enough to see the teammate’s location and get in that quick pass. So 3 passes in a row was a huge step.

We lost 1-4. To our fans it was a hard game and maybe even disappointing. But from where I sat, I watched kids play in multiple positions, put together some plays, goalies punt balls better than I’ve seen yet, and nobody let on defeat. Most of them just wanted to keep playing and running more. 

Now, take a halftime break here and breathe. 

If you would, walk back through these moments with me, and put on my glasses. There are some amazing connections I need you to see. 

When I’m in a position of leadership like coaching, I may make plans, practice and try to train my team, but I have to trust God to teach me bigger lessons in flexibility and giving us all what we need in the unplanned moments. Also everyone has ideas about what they want, but I have to keep the bigger picture in mind. 

Like the player who kept looking over at me, don’t lose sight of God and his ways. Reposition as needed. Then when it’s time to engage, do so with vigor!

Like the new player who was playing both sides of the field, we can’t do it all. We’re not meant to and it often takes the joy of playing away from others. We have to mind our positioning while helping where we can. Exhaustion trying to play all the parts hurts you and the people you’re trying to help. 

There are some that are the protectors. They are the last line of the defense like the goalie. Think Parents. Rescue Workers. Doctors. Law Enforcement. Military. Leaders in Churches and Organizations. They have a huge weight to carry. We should acknowledge the protectors and speak out encouragement for them. Sometimes when things get past them, they will feel so very heavy. Remind them it is not over and they have not let the whole team down. Everyone is working together. They are not alone. 

Like our well played intentional passes, look up. Look up. Just like the goalie, you are not alone. This life is meant to be lived as part of a community. Likely there is someone close by waiting, maybe even longing for the pass. But first you have to move your eyes off your own two feet and look up.

There will be some losses. But total defeat is not our destiny. If you walk with the Lord, the war is already won. Don’t focus on the score, but learn from the fight. Learning how to play well, fair, and as a team is way more fun than just scoring mercilessly anyway. 

I can’t wait for another chance to coach these 9 and 10 year old players. After all, who is really taking away more? 

A capture by one of the parents. Our team gathered in front of the sunset.

When your Campfire isn’t Perfect

I was able to sit by a fire and roast a marshmallow with a dear friend of mine this past Sunday.  

Only, it wasn’t just the two of us. It was us… and our husbands… and our kids… and some more kids… and those kids’ parents… and, gosh, whoever else wanted to be at the regional-park-sponsored public event that night. 

Second Sunday Campfire
credit: EBRPD

Sometimes the “campfire” moments—those times when we can really connect with others and hear their stories—are extended and serene, but sometimes they are crowded and quick. 

I typically wish every heart conversation would be the extended and serene variety, but in my current stage of raising three boys, it’s often not an option. And so, I have an option. I could chose to focus on the negative and wish that things were different, or I could use the opportunities given to me to the best of my ability.

We each have a choice: be greedy or be grateful.

This is true when it comes to how many s’mores we get to make around the fire, and it’s true when it comes to the people that God puts in our lives. 

I often fall into the “greedy” category when it comes to my relationships. I want my visits with extended family to be just a few days longer. I want the date night with my husband to be just a little more perfect. I want the time spent snuggling with my boys before bed to be just a little more meaningful. I want my conversations with my friends to last just a little longer. Greedy, greedy, greedy.

Sunday night by the fire, my son, Zeke, asked if he could make himself another s’more at the park. And as I checked his heart with the familiar question, “Are you being greedy or grateful?,” I realized that my own heart probably needed a check, too. Was I being greedy or grateful in this time with my friend and her family?

Earlier that evening, the two of us had easily fallen into comfortable conversation while our kids were busy getting their hands sandy in a science experiment. We shared stories; we asked questions; I encouraged her and the journey she has been walking these last handful of years; she invited me to make plans for our families spend some extended time together. Grateful, grateful, grateful.

I walked away so grateful for her and for the friendship that God has blessed us with. And I am {hoping} to stay thankful for my “campfires” this week, no matter what shape they take.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.  For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true. Ephesians 5:1-2, 8-9

And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Colossians 3:15

Radio Winner

“Any fun plans this weekend?” the man behind the counter asked as he handed me a “Love-It” size chocolate ice cream scoop. “Giving birth” I responded with all the casualty of a woman who has not yet crossed the bridge of motherhood. Startled, he nodded his head, as if that were the only response he felt appropriate. The next day, Friday, marked my last official day of teaching before maternity leave began; my due date was Saturday. My husband and I were out to enjoy what we knew would be our last complication-free date night for years – we wanted to reminisce our adventures and simpler life. However, instead of looking back, our conversation bubbled with anticipation. That evening we giggled (mostly me) and dreamed, trying to guess what our future would look like, what our baby would look like, and how we were going to change. Our hopefulness, and joy, were high.

I sometimes wish I had gone back and told that Coldstone cashier I was right. With all the preciseness of a Rube Goldberg machine, my labor began shortly after midnight on Saturday, two days after startling the teenager behind the counter. I called my mother to verify that my feelings weren’t simply a bad case of stomach trouble or a trick of the mind, and she remained on the phone with me until my contraction timer told me it was time to call the doctor (about an hour later). A quick conversation with the OB on call, a shower, and I awoke my husband, very calmly informing him that we needed to drive to the hospital. Everything felt like clockwork, but our hearts beat fast – this was it! We were as ready as we could be.

This memory, almost 4 ½ years ago now, is at the forefront of my thoughts as I prepare to birth our third blessing. While nothing can truly prepare a couple for the labor and birthing of a child, bringing home a tiny newborn, or life as a family of three instead of two, our focus on the future gave us joy in anticipation. We knew that difficulty, pain, struggles, and even potential danger were in our future, but our joy at the thought of holding a tiny image-bearer of Christ, a miracle entrusted to us, guided us through the fear and anxiety of all the unknowns.

A few years before, fresh out of college, I lived in Napa, California (I know, rough) for my 1-year youth ministry internship. Not yet married (my fiance lived several states away), I found myself with a lot of free time (a concept that, as a mom to almost-3 children under 5, seems completely foreign!) Shortly into my year I learned of a local radio essay contest: write a short essay about your “Heartsong,” and win two tickets to Spirit West Coast Christian music festival, complete with backstage passes to meet Tenth Avenue North, my all-time favorite Christian music group. After making sure I could get the time off, I wrote my essay about the song chosen for my fellow interns and I, played during our placement worship service.

For a short time after submitting, I lived in anticipation, but at some point in the month between the submission date and the winner announcement, my hope dwindled. Instead, I busied myself with preparations for an upcoming youth trip. On the morning of the trip, I woke early to finish last-minute packing and eat a solid breakfast before my airport ride arrived. I turned on my phone ringer (a rarity for me), knowing they would call when in my apartment complex. Shortly into my breakfast, an unknown number scrolled across my (non-smart) phone. Hesitant, I answered. “You won!” the voice chirped.

“I won?” I replied, still hesitant.

“You’re going to Spirit West Coast to meet Tenth Avenue North!,” the morning talk-show hosts laughed.

“Oh. Uh, ok.” At that moment I honestly had no idea what was going on – was this a scam? I racked my brain to remember… slowly it clicked\ but too late to give the woo-hoo response the radio hosts wanted.

In their ever-bubbly voices, now twinged with a bit of disappointment, the hosts asked me to stay on the line to provide my address. I never got to hear my response played over the radio since my ride arrived soon thereafter, but I’m certain the hearts of America (or at least Northern California) broke at my ungrateful response.

I had forgotten the joy of anticipation. Instead of marking the day on my calendar, joyfully expecting with hope, I’d allowed other commitments (albeit good things) to cloud my vision and keep me focused on the present.

Despite my less-than-awesome reaction, meeting Tenth Avenue North was a huge highlight.

Are we ever so busy caught up in all the good things of life that we wouldn’t notice Jesus coming back?

Paul warned the Thessalonians in his first letter to them: For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. (verses 2-6)

What does your story look like today? Are you living in joyful anticipation, or has the day-to-day clouded your vision? I believe we are made to live in both the now and the not yet. Earthly joys are meant to point us to the creator of joy, and earthly struggles remind us that one day every tear will be wiped away in the glory of His presence. Two thousand years ago, Christ walked the earth. He attended celebrations, he ate meals with friends, he wept, and he suffered deep sorrow and pain. He lived just as we do, but perfectly. The author of Hebrews reminds us to look to him as our model for earthly life:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

Life is full of good things, like ice cream and youth trips, but let us not get so caught up in them that we forget who is coming for us and what he is preparing! Life is also full of labor pain, struggles, and heartbreak. But let us not focus on that darkness, and instead look to the joy ahead. Amen, come soon, Lord Jesus!

Two years later, at the same Coldstone, enjoying ice cream with our little miracle.