Cast Your Net Wide


Over the past two years, my friends and I have helplessly watched one of our own beaten and tortured by the ravages of melanoma. A young woman with two very young children she has been too ill to enjoy. A wife to a devoted husband who vowed to stand by through sickness and health. A daughter who, just four years ago, lost her own mother to cervical cancer. A sister, the only sibling, of another young woman who is suddenly bearing a burden too large for her shoulders alone.

When Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and thereby all believers, to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-20), I get the feeling He didn’t mean fly fishing, for us to wade into a quiet stream, cast our line thoughtfully to and fro, then wait for a bite. Jesus called us to cast our nets wide and draw others unto ourselves. To cast wide the love of God, bringing the masses into the embrace of the family of Christ. After He was raised from the dead, Jesus found the disciples fishing again, but without much luck. He instructed them where to cast their nets. When they obeyed His command, their faithfulness rewarded them a bounty too full to lift. (John 21:1-6)

Nets. We are to use nets. Cast thoughtful and faithfully where God leads.

Mareeka has suffered countless surgeries, though I’m sure she could tell you the exact number. How many hospital bracelets she has worn, how many books she has read to “take her mind off of things,” how many times she has said goodbye to her daughter and son. But she doesn’t. She doesn’t recount the horrors. Every time she shares her heart, there is no doubt how firmly her rock-solid faith is anchored. She stands strong, knowing and proclaiming that “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Shortly after she was placed in hospice care, Mareeka posted on her blog, “I don’t understand how it all works, but I won’t question or diminish the Word of God just because I can’t figure it out. Neither will I give God any less power or grace just because I haven’t seen it, yet.”

Every time she opens her heart, she casts her net wide, wider, wide open! In her solid faith, Mareeka has valiantly fought death and in her fight, she has cast God’s love wide among the nations. My sisters, my friends, my Bible study group, they don’t know Mareeka personally. They didn’t meet her as a wide-eyed high schooler visiting her sister at college. They didn’t sit in her dorm room, listening to her talk expectantly about her nursing courses. They don’t carry guilt for having lined up with her on the beach, soaking up the sun’s dangerous rays. My friends, and hundreds like them around the world, don’t know Mareeka, but they know Mareeka’s God.

Come hell or high water, Mareeka’s God is by her side and she will never forsake Him. Mareeka has been faithful to take Him at His word. She cast out her net, she shared the living, breathing Word of God, she spread His truth in this world.

Mareeka, in your faithfulness you have cast wide the net of Love and drawn countless into the embrace of Jesus. Keep the faith. You ARE God’s favorite kid and He WILL complete a great work in you and through you. Thank you for every little thing you have taught me.

Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Philippians 1:3-6

Love Isn’t


The love charm fell from my necklace on Valentines Day. Slipped off and landed somewhere under my feet. A Freudian slip, if you will. On this, the day for sweethearts, extra kisses, and reminders of who we love the most, I felt like love slid from my grasp. I was grumpy, irritable, and in no mood to be loving or loved.

In an effort to reassure myself, I tried reciting the Biblical definition of love. You know the passage, the wedding standard: I Corinthians 13. Used at so many marriage ceremonies, it’s almost tiresome. Almost. Except the tug on my heart reminds me, it’s there by design. When love begins, when love is hard, when love is bored, and even when love just feels unlovable.

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 (The Message)

Sure enough, I failed in every way possible today. I was selfish and ready to quit. I lost my patience, more than once. I pouted and let everyone in my path know what I wanted. Despite my husband’s loving kindness, I snapped whenever he spoke to me. My daughter struggled to find her mother’s smile. I convinced her to help me clean the house for her father’s Valentines surprise; in truth, it was for my own peace. I grumpily prepared our traditional dinner of pancakes and berries, all the while grumbling and barking orders. The worst part was, I knew how unloving I was and didn’t have the guts to snap out of it. Who and why would someone love a grouch like me?

There is One who loves me when I am unloving, unkind, ill-tempered, and impatient. One who loves me when I make myself unlovable and when I don’t show love. One who gives me grace upon grace until I am drawn in, once again, by His enduring, steadfast love. God, who gave us flowers and chocolates, who created our hearts to crave love, and who showed us the ultimate example of sacrificial love, loves me despite my flaws. My heart of stone crumbles and is made tender, open to all the joy of love in Christ.

We love because he first loved us.
1 John 4:19

Hey Grumpy, this one’s for you. Boy, did I need it today!

I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed.
Ezekiel 36:26

And this? This is what it’s all about. Such grace, such acceptance, such love.

This is how God showed his love for us: God sent his only Son into the world so we might live through him. This is the kind of love we are talking about—not that we once upon a time loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to clear away our sins and the damage they’ve done to our relationship with God. My dear, dear friends, if God loved us like this, we certainly ought to love each other. No one has seen God, ever. But if we love one another, God dwells deeply within us, and his love becomes complete in us—perfect love!
I John 4: 9-12

No matter how you find yourself on Valentines Day – married, single, single again, with your children or not – or any day, may you open your heart to love, real Love. Because, whether you’re in the mood or not, He loves you anyway.

The Grandparent Legacy


My husband’s grandmother passed away recently. Our last grandparent. My husband and I have been together for many years, yet we never knew any of one another’s grandfathers. Who we did know quite well, were each other’s grandmothers, the matriarchs of our families. During our engagement, we lost both of my grandmothers and one of Frank’s. The absence of these women we loved and looked to for comfort was sudden, empty, and painful. His maternal grandmother, Babcia, a stout Polish woman whose eyes were bright like the light of heaven, remained our only grandparent for a decade. Oh, how we loved her.

Each of these four women (Nana, Babcia, Gamu, and Gramma) were so different from one another, but brought to us the same unconditional love. Without them, we now look to the new family matriarchs … our own mothers, the grandmothers to our children. In them, MomMom and Grammy, and in our fathers, Boppa and Grampy, we see that same love, acceptance, adoration.

What a joy to observe our parents pouring over our children with endless, boundless, unassuming love! We can glean so much from the relationships they maintain with our kids. They teach us how to be better parents, how to let go of the little things and just enjoy the sweet laughter of our children, how to think about the bigger picture and forget daily “mom-petition” even exists.

Going forward without any grandparents of my own makes me feel a little lost. But I look forward to absorbing all the grandparent love through the eyes, arms, and hearts of our parents.

With love, we will always remember you, Babcia.
Halina Krauze-Jaworska (1920 – 2014)

One Word


Resolutions. I’m not very good at keeping them. They feel altogether confining and un-authoritative. The rules are too strict, but no one is watching so who cares if I break them anyway. And once I do break them, I struggle to get back on track. Lenten sacrifices elude me, too, for the same reasons.

Conversely, I do have pretty decent will-power. As long as the commitment is on my terms (i.e. 365 days beginning January 1: NOT my terms) where I control the rules and the opportunities to break them. Yes, I’m sure we could find a correlation to my childhood and my parents’ challenges raising me, as well as the battles I have with my own children, but that’s not really the point here.

How about a word? Some people suggest selecting a word as the focus for the coming year. One word. An intention. Not a set goal, not an overall lifestyle change, not an abandonment of myself in order to become someone different than who I was last year. Just a word to guide me through the year, a checks-and-balance system in decision making, an improvement on the foundation of who I am, a focus when life is spinning. Perhaps I could do that.

But what word? It would take a lot of introspection to find something impactful. Several blogs suggest starting with a list, then praying over it for weeks. Weeks? We’ll be into March before I get around to a project that complex. So, I read through comments on a friend’s Facebook discussion about this; her friends posted their words and the purposes behind them. As I read each, my responses went something like this:
Gasp! (Audible gasp. I may have woken the baby)

It’s like God hit me over the head with “Here’s looking at you, kid!”

Among all the words, the adjectives, verbs, nouns, all the intentions others are using to guide them in 2014, discipline spoke to me. To my lack of it, to my back when I turn from it, to the commitments I break because I choose to ignore it … And to all the joy I miss out on because self-discipline doesn’t matter enough to me.

Okay, Discipline, we are in this together. I’ll probably have to make some changes, give up some bad habits, pick up some better ones, and check in with you at least once a day. With a little (a lot!) of prayer, I can do this. Let’s see where a little self-discipline takes me in 2014. Beginning, not January 1, but January 9 … the date I chose.

Get Out of My Way


“Happy New Year, now get out of my way.”

In a surprising and disappointing turn of events, the usual uplifting welcome to the new year has taken an ugly downward spiral. Rather than sharing positive efforts at change, more and more people are complaining about the “resolutionaries” in their way. All the treadmills at the gym are occupied, there were too many people on the trail, the grocery store has been sold out of baby spinach for a week (really, it has!). Folks who once made a change themselves are now irritated at others seeking self-improvement.

To the naysayers, I ask: When did you become an athlete? Were you always an expert chef? Have you ever had a lapse in your routine? Did you pick up sewing as a child or learn to knit as an adult? … When you started, or restarted, what kept you going?

Everyone needs a shot at making a change, learning a new skill, quitting a bad habit. It doesn’t matter what the start-date or motivating factors are. And everyone needs encouragement along the way. Not negative, behind-the-back criticism.

Next time you notice all the treadmills are taken, look at the guy struggling through his first mile and give him an encouraging nod, remembering a couple years back when you huffed and puffed around the block. He is starting, just like you did.
When the customer in front of you is asking too many question about which knitting needles to purchase, offer to show her what worked best for you when you first began.
If you, the novice runner, pass a svelte athlete on the trail, give her a thumbs up. She may be faster and more fit than you, but she needs encouragement to reach her goals, too.

Rather than complain about the newbies who are slower, clumsier, sweatier, and just plain in the way, let’s all reach out to encourage them. You never know what might happen. Perhaps you’ll end up with a new running buddy, a pretty scarf made by that talented seamstress, a delicious healthful meal when you’re down, or a friend who has similar interests. Or not. Whatever happens, do not get in the way of someone else’s dream.

Happy New Year to Everyone.

A Resolutionary.

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New Years Day found our little family hiking along the Potomac River. Just a few miles from our home, dozens of trails offer us opportunities to escape the urban and suburban life we lead and witness nature up close and personal.

As we four trekked through the hills and our cheeks reddened with exertion, our little family worked so well together. Meredith, age 6, climbed the rocks and fallen leaves with ease. She scurried up the hillsides and zipped around corners like she was born into this. At not quite 2, Audrey ambled along – sometimes walking, other times riding in the jogging stroller, and often taking the best route – on her daddy’s shoulders.

After a great climb, picnic lunch, and decent down a slippery path, we paused for breath and a family photo. In the woods alone, we settled for a group selfie. I stretched my arm to its length, but Frank’s is longer. So we squeezed tighter as I handed him my phone. Huddled tight, we smiled for the shot. We fit, just barely.

Back at home, I posted the family profile photo on Facebook, tagged Frank, and smiled at our little family of four. Sitting on the couch together, with his arm around me, we couldn’t help but swallow back something bittersweet in that shot. We still fit. Our hearts cry out to outgrow that profile picture frame, but right now we still fit.

When, Lord? And how?

You Are the Resolution


The post-Christmas cleanup has begun. Torn paper is stuffed into garbage bags, boxes are crushed for recycling, ribbon twists and twirls its way under sofas to be discovered later. Children play with their toys, testing out then quickly discarding each as they move to the next. Sweet treats and cookies, over which we labored for weeks leading up to this day suddenly look stale and wasted. Unlike Thanksgiving, when we create meals around leftovers, the remaining Christmas treats are scowled upon and easily tossed in the trash as we anticipate healthier eating in the new year.

The new year, with its promises of punctuality, organization, menu planning, exercise routines, exchange of bad habits for good, financial control, quality time, and goals of ultimate perfection looms around the corner. We anticipate scraping off the old, dead skin of last year for a fresh start to life. Leaving behind all that we dislike of ourselves for better versions, improvement, more perfection. By sticking to our resolutions, we can be that which we believe we really should be.

Because, what we are, how we act, what we eat, say, and do isn’t enough, right? Who we were in 2013 was not all that we were meant to be in this world. The old version of yourself needs to change – eat better, exercise more, journal daily, save money. Yes, the new you, the 2014 version will be the person you want to be. Healthier, thinner, more introspective and assertive, friendlier, wealthier. Out with the old; in with the new.

The old. The late, overweight, impatient, slovenly, disorganized you who carried through 365 days of ups and downs. You, who survived the bad days, health concerns, financial struggles, rush hours, and home repairs, are not good enough to face another 365, right? Or maybe you are. You, who conquered the rough patches, family disagreements, travel debacles, power outages, and wardrobe malfunctions. Perhaps you, with all your faults, are capable of tackling another year as you are. Last year, and the year before, and the year before that each prepared you a little bit to be exactly who you are now, the truly improved you. Ready to take on another year.

Sure, you might be a few minutes late to work again in pants that are a little snug. Maybe you’ll order Chinese take-out for dinner or stay up too late. We could all save a bit more than we spend. But you are ready, not just to survive, but to conquer. Just as you did last year. So, clean up the wrapping paper piles and toss out the old cookies, then look around at your life. Your beautiful, messy life that carried you thus far and made you exactly who you are meant to be to face this, your life.

Feeling a Little Un-Christmasy


It doesn’t feel much like Christmas this year. I have decorated the house, wrapped presents and placed them under the tree, and moved the Elf 22 times. We made cookies and biscotti. My six year old, for whom the next three days will pass much too slowly, danced her heart out in her Nutcracker debut. We have sugarplums swirling in our heads all night long. My one-and-a-half year old is delighted by the decorations and lights, exclaiming “Wow! Mismas” at every turn. We have done all we could to prepare, but something is missing.

I feel like I’m hanging out in the Inn, maybe partying with the crowd late into the evening, while over yonder in the stable, something breathless is about to occur. And I’m going to miss it.

I have prepared everything for Christmas. Everything except myself. Today, I sent my family scurrying to church without me because I haven’t been feeling well. An hour later, as I walked into the mall for last minute gift-buying, I felt sick to my stomach. The feeling had nothing to do with my headcold.

I fell for it. Materialism and commercialism have robbed us of the sacredness of this holiday. And I am swept up in it.

Three months ago, I boarded a plane for Honduras. I came face to face with poverty and filth, desperation and heartbreak. At times, my memory replays the images like a documentary. Other times, the heat, the work, the love are so close I can taste them. But right now, while I am reveling at the Inn, carrying on about my selfish needs and desires, and thinking only of my family, the Love I encountered in Honduras is as far away as that stable in Bethlehem.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas because Christmas isn’t here where it’s warm and toasty, where the drinks flow freely, where our physical desires are met. Christmas is out there, in the dark. In a tiny manger lit only by a star, a light from heaven. That’s where Love is.

If I hope to encounter His Love this Christmas, I need to step out of the Inn of comfort and ease. Where do I want the Child to meet me? In my decorated home with our pretty tree overflowing with presents for one another? Or at the side of the manger, on my knees, thanking Him for each precious gift He has given – my family, my home, my broken heart? These are the best gifts. The ones I can receive with open arms, gifts from God Himself. And what does He want in return? Only my love. His Love for my love.

Maybe that’s the part of Christmas I neglected this year. Love for love. Not presents, candycanes, trees and ornaments, icicle lights, wrapping paper, the Elf, or even Christmas carols. Just His Love for my love.

The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, generous inside and out, true from start to finish.
John 1:14 (the Message)

Merry Christmas to each of you. May you step outside of your Inn, walk toward the manger, and let His Love enter in.


How do you like your chicken? Lemon pepper, boneless and skinless, BBQ, organic, individually packaged, fresh frozen or fully cooked, free-range, cage-free, hormone-free, chicken-free veggie meat… Chicken in America comes anyway you want it. A walk through the butcher’s aisle of my local Giant offers dozens of options to prepare poultry for my family. Enough options to make a girl cry. Especially a girl who recently spent time in a country where chicken comes only two ways: dead or alive.

Before leaving Honduras, we were warned that upon returning to the U.S., we might find ourselves overwhelmed with the choices before us. Indeed, during my first trip to the grocery, I wandered up and down the 23 aisles, nauseous and emotional. So much stuff! The complete opposite of the humble yet sufficient supermercado where I had so recently shopped. So much perceived want masked as need. Yet, I bought into it. Those welcome home Cocoa Krispies never tasted so good!

Other advice we received upon our departure from the orphanage was to avoid feeling guilty for the conveniences we have. Wise advice; we have so many creature comforts, they are hardly avoidable. Prepared food via drive-thru, take-out, and delivery, movies that come to us immediately, the world at our fingertips through online shopping. While preparing to host our Thanksgiving feast, I order our groceries online, never having to battle the weather, other frenzied shoppers, or my whiny children.

One of my favorite conveniences from the world of are diapers. I can hop online, tap the screen a few times, and have diapers delivered to my front door within 24 hours. That’s faster than sending my husband to the store for a pack! I’ve taken to ordering toilet paper, laundry detergent, shampoo, you-name-it, all with free shipping and overnight delivery.

That guaranteed quick turnaround means procrastinators can wait to order until an item is almost empty at home. I know my website will deliver the day after, so I request a new package of diapers when my daughter is down to a day’s worth. Why do I test them so? For a gal who usually has three dozen rolls of toilet paper stored under cabinets, this diaper-roulette is a surprising twist.

It might come back to haunt me tomorrow. Forecasters warn a half-foot of snow is headed our way. In this pseudo-Southern state, such precipitation is paralyzing. My bulk diaper purchase is “in transit,” scheduled to be delivered in the height of the snow storm, putting the internets and brown truck company to the test. Have I become too dependent on my conveniences? Come tomorrow afternoon, I might be forced to wrap a blanket around my little one’s middle, donn my snow boots, and head to my local grocery store. At least I know that when I arrive, I can choose whatever type of diaper suits our needs. And while I’m there, I might just pick up some chicken for dinner.

Everyday Goodness


Yesterday, December 5, 2013, Nelson Mandela passed from this life to the next. He was 95 years old and probably ready to retire his body. He had used it to the fullest, as a husband, father, heavyweight boxer, and most importantly, as a promoter of peace.

Upon his death, media outlets and social networking sites were ablaze with the news, pictures, quotes, and postings for the icon to rest in peace. People are posting about Mandela as they would a close friend, someone who intimately touched their lives. And, perhaps he did. This man who promoted peace, justice, and the antithesis of hate, Love.

But why did we wait until now to talk about him so much? If we really believe in his life’s work to spread peace, why haven’t we been sharing his quotes regularly? Nelson Mandela lived in such a way as to prove one person really can make a difference. One person can start a movement to change the way the world thinks. Several generations were able to witness his work firsthand and now we will pass his legacy to the history books. If we were to truly honor and memorialize this man, his work, his passion, we would live for peace and goodness everyday.

Isn’t that the way of it, though? When people die, we often idealize them, remember stories of how great they were, gloss over their failures and faults, and share how we knew them intimately. Why wait? Shouldn’t we treat one another today the way we will talk about each other after one of us is gone? Be it friends, family, acquaintances, or cultural icons. If you mean so much to me, I should put you on a pedestal now and tell you directly how I feel, rather than wait until you’re the very audience who will miss my message of how great you are.

If you have inspired me to live my life differently, what an honor it would be to show you by acting on it now. My dad would probably rather his daughter live a life of integrity and hard work while he can see it from this side of heaven. Instead of submitting a beautiful eulogy for the English teacher who inspired me to write, I should express my gratitude to her now. To the elderly gentleman who sings in my church choir, when you pass away, I’ll surely be sad and remember how kind you were; how good would it be if this Sunday, I look you in the eye and remind you how very loved you are.

Mr. Mandela, thank you for your message of peace. Thank you for giving of your heart and your life to bring about real and necessary change in this world. As we honor and remember you, I hope we all stand behind your words as we quote them. May peace, God’s peace, pour over this earth and reign forever.

“If I had my time over I would do the same again.
So would any man who dares call himself a man.”
Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)