Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Don't Try to Take Away Another Servant's Portion

If you've been in church for a while, you've almost certainly heard a sermon (or two, or hundred) on the story of Mary and Martha. If you've been in a women's Bible study of any kind, you've probably studied it pretty thoroughly.

If you haven't, allow me to give you a very quick synopsis:

Jesus comes to a village, and two women welcome Him and His followers into their home. Mary is completely enthralled by Jesus (not in a romantic way, but in a respectful way), but Martha is thoroughly distracted by the concerns of feeding Jesus and His entourage. Martha gets fed up and asks Jesus to stick up for her to her sister, but Jesus speaks instead to Martha, telling her that "one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good potion, which will not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:42)

Because this passage is taught so often, you may have already heard what I have to say. If so, awesome! It couldn't hurt to hear it again. If not, that's cool, too. You're going to hear it today.

Martha isn't especially selfish or arrogant, in my opinion. I think that her reaction is pretty typical. I don't know if she really believed that Mary was being lazy or if she saw the joy and excitement Mary was experiencing and got jealous. I personally think it's a great thing that we don't fully understand Martha's motivation because we see both at work within the church.

We see the frustrated church members who are tired from all of their work and who speak against the people in the church who are "lazy" and not doing enough. We also see people who are jealous of someone else's intimate relationship with Jesus who try to defend their own spiritual life by tearing others' down. And if we're being really, really honest, we see the same two motives within our own hearts. We get frustrated with people who don't do as much as we think they should, and we get defensive about the people who are serving better than we think we do.

And, just like Martha, we judge. Instead of listening to what our hearts are telling us, we try to take away the portion that God has given to His servants, whether that is joy in service or joyous intimacy.

Instead of inspiration, we draw antagonism.

Martha isn't our first glimpse of this problem. The same thing happened between Cain and Abel when Abel's gift to God was accepted and Cain's wasn't. Cain gets murderously angry with Abel, but God responds by telling him, "Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it." (Genesis 4:6-7)

Cain wanted to be Abel's master. Martha wanted to be Mary's master. The problem is that they both already had a Master. In both situations, the Master had very similar advice. We can either humbly learn how to love God better by learning from those whose spiritual lives and service make us jealous or frustrated, or we can choose to act as his or her master and separate ourselves farther from them and farther from God.

But here's God's promise and His warning: God will not take away a faithful servant's reward because of our frustrations. We can either choose to share in their rewards by learning from them or we can choose to miss out because of our own arrogance and stubbornness.

Although the story ended very badly for Cain, we see that it doesn't have to. In John 11, we see Jesus interacting with these sisters at a later point, and we learn that Jesus and Martha have become very close. They have a very personal relationship that is marked by Martha's faith in Jesus. She learned from her wise teacher, and the result was intimate relationship with the Lord of Life.

The same opportunity is available to us today. Let's not pass it up!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

37 Years of Greatness

Today is an extremely important day. On November 16, 1979, God blessed our broken world with Edwin Roy Attaway, and today we celebrate the 37th anniversary of that blessing.

I honestly cannot tell you what this man means to me. I've never known a more servant-hearted leader or a more loving friend. (I've also never known anyone quite as cheap, but this has also been a blessing at times.)

He follows Jesus with everything he's got, and he holds nothing back. He takes nothing for granted and expresses gratitude for every blessing he receives, even hardships.

He has given his life to serve the church, and he has made more sacrifices than anyone will ever know. He is an amazing father who takes extreme amounts of delight in picking out the best toys for his kids (within a given budget, of course). He is patient with his children and church members. He has high expectations for himself and seemingly endless grace for everyone else.

He makes me better than I ever could have been alone. He lovingly shepherds our family into the greener pastures God has prepared for us. He prays with me and for me, He's my very best friend, and I'm grateful for the last thirteen birthdays that I've gotten to celebrate with him.

He isn't perfect. He isn't my savior. But he's an amazing gift from my Perfect Savior, and I cannot imagine life without him.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Thing About Bad Handwriting

I have terrible handwriting. The longer that I write, the worse it gets. My hands cramp. I have to use different pens in different widths when I'm taking notes for a long period of time.

I always wanted that pretty, flowing handwriting that girls in my grade had. I didn't understand how they spaced their words and letters so perfectly. I didn't understand how they made their hands create such pretty letters with so little effort.

My teachers were equally confused, but most of them had a theory. Some said that I was too lazy to write neatly (despite the fact that I had excellent grades and always knew the content of their classes very well). Some said that I was too impatient. Others said that I just didn't care about neatness.

So I would try as hard as I could to write neatly. I quickly found that the neater my handwriting, the less that I understood about the material being taught. After about fifteen minutes of trying, my hands would be so tired that my handwriting naturally devolved into its unfortunate sloppiness.

And I was left feeling pretty terrible about myself.

I kind of thought that maybe my bad handwriting was actually a character flaw, something that made me less than all of the other girls with their pretty, flowing cursive.

It wasn't until I started learning about hand strength and motor skills and perception that I discovered that my handwriting is what it is. It's sloppy, but it has nothing to do with how hard I try or how much I care. I have bad handwriting because God created me with weak hands and poor area perception. It isn't a character flaw, after all.

Now I have a daughter with weak hands and poor area perception, and this time around, I know what to say. I explain to her teachers that her handwriting is what it is. Occupational therapy may help a little, but at the end of the day, it isn't a matter of effort but physical ability. So far all of her teachers have understood and have been wonderfully patient in trying to interpret my daughter's hieroglyphics.

Here's the thing: everyone has bad handwriting. Maybe it isn't actually handwriting. Maybe it's their ability to learn material. Maybe it's their home life. Maybe it's the way their breath smells or the kind of clothes that they wear. But everyone has something.

Everyone struggles with something that is simply a weakness in who they are, and it can be very easy for those who don't struggle in the same area, it can be very easy to assume that it's a character flaw or moral failure. It's easy to assign motive and intent from the outside looking in, but it's even easier to get it wrong.

I can remember when one teacher in particular diagnosed my poor handwriting as a sign of laziness and carelessness. I remember trying to write more clearly and neatly on the next assignment. I remember the feeling of failure and freakishness that came when I failed.

Maybe you already have your own version of bad handwriting in mind as you read this. If so, here's what I'm going to tell you, dear friend: You're not a failure and you're not a freak simply because you don't meet everyone's expectations. Do your best. Focus on using your strengths to fulfill your purpose instead of trying to be perfect at everything. Prioritize character over performance. Do everything as unto the Lord. Then let it go.

Because there's always keyboards. It's okay if you still can't understand a Shakespearean sonnet. You can create a new home that functions differently than the one where you grew up. You can buy mouthwash and new clothes.

But there's only one you, and you are so much more than your weaknesses might lead you to think.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A Very Needed Update

The Family

Life has been busy, and sleep has been harder to come by, largely due to this one:

He's certainly worth it, but no one is going to be sad when he gets his sleep schedule figured out. He's actually doing fairly well on the sleep, but he's not sleeping quite as consistently as Mommy and Daddy could use. And when he's awake, we need to be really awake.

Big sisters are doing very well. DeLaynie is doing well with the transition to middle school, and Ella is killing it in third grade. They're growing up rapidly, and becoming very sweet young ladies.

The Church

The church planting process is progressing. We have a consistent group of about 14-16 adults, and we have a lot of kids as well. Going to weekly services has helped us find more of a groove, and we seem to be finding our footing as far as worship goes. We were recently blessed with an incredible childcare worker who goes to another church on Saturday nights. That is a massive blessing!

Things are moving forward at a good pace, and the group is growing, but the more people that we have, the more work it is to care for the people spiritually.

Which brings me to the next thing...

The Hunt

I've been looking for a full-time job that would allow Edwin to leave his full-time job and devote more time and energy to church planting. I've had a few interviews, and I haven't heard back from all of them yet. I'm always on the look-out, and I'm always sending out resumes.

I have wanted to work full-time for several years, but the opportunity didn't present itself, and I kept myself extremely busy with volunteer ministry, part-time work, and school, plus the kids. Now it is clearly in the best interest of the ministry and the family for me to go to work full-time, and I'm very excited at the prospect.

The Prayer

Here are a few ways that you can pray for us:

  • Pray that God will help little Li to sleep more soundly and with fewer mid-night wake-ups.
  • Pray that the people currently attending Renovation will invite and bring their friends and family members. We're praying for multiplication more than addition.
  • Pray that God will provide the right job at the right time with the right employer at the right pay.
As always, thank you for your prayers and support. We couldn't do any of the things that we do without you!!!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Gentlemen, This is Your Cue

This is a post that I almost wrote during the Brock Turner scandal, but I decided that it could get too messy. Then came the Trump Tapes, and Lord help me, I just can't stay quiet about this anymore.

This isn't a political post. I'm not going to talk about who you should vote for and who you shouldn't. This is a conversation (one sided, though it may be) with my Christian brothers from a sincere heart that simply desires to see healthy change.

Because here's the thing: I think way more of you than Trump does. 

He has said that it is normal and natural for you to brag about objectifying women and abusing them as sex toys instead of respecting them as co-heirs of grace. He has said that you simply can't help discussing the ways that you mistreat women whenever you get together without female supervision. He's said that his bragging is "just words," and that they're totally normal words for your portion of the population.

Gentlemen, this is your cue to be outraged.

You should be deeply offended by Trump's excuses because he's throwing you under the bus in order to promote his own agenda. You should be angry that your role as protectors has been so horribly mis-used by one of your own who claims to follow the God who gave men strength and social status so that they could protect the vulnerable ones given to their care. You should be hurt that Trump's arguments have been accepted and defended as truth.

Gentlemen, this is your cue to speak up.

But so many of you aren't offended. So many of you are justifying Trump's criminal sin in hopes of "winning" an election that is truly a no-win situation. So many of you, my precious Christian brothers, are staying quiet while your sisters fight the battle for you.

I believe in you, fellas. I don't believe that men who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and live under His leadership really believe that there is anything normal or natural about Trump's comments. I don't believe that you really think it's okay or that someone else's sin justifies Trump's actions. I believe that you recognize that your strength was given to you by God so you can protect those who are weak. I believe that you know that women are your equals in Christ, and they should be afforded the same respect and love that you expect. I believe in you. I really do.

I just don't think you've quite understood what Trump was saying about you, and I don't think that you understand that some women have to come to think so little of you that they're buying Trump's excuses.

I know that many people will vote for Trump in order to protect the Supreme Court seat that is up for grabs and those that may open in the next four years. I can understand that logic, and I respect your decision, even if I do disagree with it personally.

But even if you plan to cast your vote for Trump, don't think that means that you're obligated to defend his sinful, vile, and criminal behavior or make excuses for it. Your first allegiance is to Christ, and He demands that we recognize evil for what it is.

Gentlemen, this is your cue to use your strength, your voice, and your life for the purposes God has given you. This is your cue to show those of us who still believe in you what manhood really looks like.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Part 2 of Our Adoption Story: Gotcha Day!

It's been three weeks since we walked out of the government building where we met our son for the first time. It seems like a long time ago and just yesterday at the same time. I already find it inconceivable that there was ever a time when Li wasn't a part of our family, but we've barely begun our journey with Li.

On Gotcha Day, we talked about how different our afternoon would be from our morning. We tried to find ways to burn time until the afternoon. We ate Subway for lunch. (Yes, China has Subway! And it's totally a normal Subway, except they tend to skip a bit on the meat.) Then we met our wonderful guide and got in the van to make our way to the government where our lives would change forever.

As we walked in, I saw Li peeking toward the door of the playroom. It was my first glance of him in real life, and that was the moment that it sank in. We were really, truly going to walk out of that building with our son! And he was really stinkin' cute!

Then we sat there for what seemed like an eternity. The director of his orphanage had to arrive at the government building in addition to Li and his caregivers from his foster home. He was there on time, but we were there early, so we had to wait a few minutes (felt like a few years).

Then we were called to the door of the playroom to officially meet our son. He's just as graceful as his parents (as in us, not his birth family).

Edwin and I were both shocked at how tiny he was. He seemed much bigger in the pictures and on Skype, but in real life he looked like a baby. The fact that he fell meant that I could comfort him, which was a definite up side. There were so many boo-boos that I wasn't around to kiss. It was good to finally be there for one of them.

Then we took him back to the ginormous sectional couch that wrapped around the entire room and gave him the little gifts that we bought. He loved the cars instantly, and he cheered up very quickly. There were other kids who were extremely sad to leave their caregivers, and understandably so, but Li was pretty chill about the whole thing. (We later saw just how sad he was when we made a trip to the orphanage. More about that later.)

I couldn't help repeating over and over, "I get to keep you forever!?"

I needed to speak to his caregivers about his daily routine and eating habits, but I hated leaving him. Okay, I was only two feet away, but it took me so long to get to him! I probably should have asked more questions, but I was completely distracted. We took a picture with his orphanage director and caregivers before leaving.

These people (as well as other nannies who didn't make the trip) were Li's family when we weren't there, and I'm eternally grateful to them. They did an amazing job getting him ready for his forever family and transferring Li's trust from them to us.

Then we rode back to the hotel where Edwin would do some paperwork and I would play with Li in the hotel's playroom. I was just beginning to get to know this kid, but I was already in love.

Then we went back to our room to begin really taking in everything that it means to be Li's parents. We quickly learned that he is an entertainer and a flirt.

But more than anything, he's our's! He is completely, totally, absolutely our son! And we couldn't be happier to finally have him home where he belongs.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

When the Story God Writes Isn't a Bestseller

I remember my reaction when I first read an article by Ed Welch called "Ordinary is the New Cool". I must admit that I was put-off by it, which was my first clue that it was hitting a little too close to home. I didn't like Dr. Welch's proposition that I should be content with a "normal life". I didn't like it, but I also knew that there was a whole lot of truth in it. It's true that we have bought into a belief that we are supposed to be important and extraordinary, and it's true that we define these concepts very differently than Scripture does. In fact, that idea is far from biblical. It's more educated by our culture than the Bible, but it rings true with our sinful desires for fame and power, so we figure out ways to make it sound spiritual. ("God, give me a platform for your glory!")

As I was working on We Win!, I read a book called The Insanity of God. In it, the author describes the difficulties faced by Christians in areas of persecution and their incredible faith in the midst of suffering. All of them remained nameless out of concern for their safety. Even the author uses a pen name to protect his ministry and the subjects of the stories he tells.

As I've turned these thoughts over and over in my head, and as I've put them together with other lessons learned in the last year, I've come to realize that my fear isn't that God isn't writing a great story through my life. My fear is that the story He's writing won't be popular.

I don't doubt whether God will use my writing in the lives of readers. I doubt if He will ever give me a "viral" blog.

I don't doubt God's faithfulness to us in ministry. I doubt how large that ministry will be.

I don't doubt God's provision for our needs. I doubt if He will provide for my wants (even the really spiritual sounding ones).

I don't doubt if I am being faithful to make Him known. I doubt if He will be "faithful" to make me known.

But God never promised to make my life extraordinary in terms of reach and influence. He promised to make me able to stand (Romans 14:4). He didn't promise to give me a following or the opportunity to be a part of a large ministry. In fact, He assured me that the most popular teachings will not be biblical at all (2 Timothy 4:3). But He has reminded me that the reward for faithfulness is a crown of righteousness that He is ready to award to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

God has reminded me that the most extraordinary lives are often anonymous. They are lives defined by faith and a longing for the eternal reign of Christ. He has given me a godly jealousy for those persecuted believers who have held to the Truth in the midst of unthinkable suffering.

God rarely writes great stories through lives whose deepest desire is a great story. He writes great stories through lives who deepest desire is to make His greatness known. In fact, we rarely realize when God is writing His greatest stories. They usually appear normal, even painful, at the time that they are written. It takes a Kingdom perspective to recognize them for what they are.

Are your prayers defined by a longing for a life of greatness or a life of faithfulness? Do you see a life of faith as the goal or a means to receiving God's blessing? Are you comfortable with being unknown if He is made known through you?

He is continuing to alter my definition of a "great life". With each passing day, greatness is defined less and less by being known and more and more by making Him known. And that's pretty great, actually.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

This Quiet Joy

I've always thought of joy as this loud, exuberant, in-your-face kind of emotion. I'm not really sure where I got this picture. Maybe it was from the "I will become even more undignified than this" phase of my Christian growth (aka middle school).

But over the last year, that picture has faded and a new one has taken its place. Completely by God's grace, I'm experiencing a new kind of joy that I didn't anticipate or think to ask for. I've found myself quietly enjoying moments that used to be stressful or empty. I've been delightfully surprised by this quiet joy in the midst of a very difficult year of multiple transitions.

The latest of these transitions has brought me to China. On Monday, July 11th, we welcomed our beautiful, precious son Li into the family.

The 16 month process was long and sometimes tedious, but it was absolutely joyous as well. Now, please know that I am not known for my patience. It's been a major area of development for me. But adopting Li was a time of joy and peace, not impatience or frustration. (Glory to God alone!)

I wish that I could give you a concrete reason why this was true, but I can't. The only thing that I know to tell you is that I have learned to trust Christ more completely than ever before. He has graciously taken my worries and desire to control and turned them into sweet trust. That trust has produced a deeper experience of joy than I have ever known.

It isn't loud joy. It isn't dancing joy. It is quiet joy.

  • A joy in trusting that God's timing is perfect.
  • A joy in trusting that I wouldn't miss a single moment with my son that God wanted me to enjoy with him.
  • A joy in trusting that God saw every detail and went before us into every step of the process.
  • A joy in trusting that God loves my son even more than I do, and His choices would produce good for me and my son if I would trust Him to do His job.

Even now, as we're in a culture that we do not know, that quiet joy covers every step.

  • A joy that trusts the itinerary developed by our agency, even when we're not comfortable with it.
  • A joy that trusts that God will protect us in a country that doesn't appreciate our value system or faith.
  • A joy that trusts our guide as an authority provided to us by God for our benefit (and she has been wonderful!).
  • A joy that trusts that we will be here as long as it is best, and that we can benefit from every moment we spend here.
  • A joy that trusts that there is more adventure than inconvenience in our time in a foreign land with foreign food. (Honestly, though, I love authentic Chinese food! It's the ordering that's a challenge.)
  • A joy that trusts that God knows every step of Li's future, and every difficulty and challenge can be used to draw him into deeper relationship with the Giver of Joy who is worthy of all of our trust and all of our lives.

Our little guy only knows very little English, and he has a few health concerns (including a current cold that has caused a lower respiratory infection), but I'm not worried. There isn't room for worry. There's only room for joy because the same God who brought my son into his forever family is the same God who walks with us each and every day. The same God who orchestrated for Li's care as a sick newborn is the same God who will orchestrate his life as a child, a young man, and (by God's infinite grace!) as a man of God who will take the truth of our King into a world that is desperate for the joy of the Lord.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Dear Christian, Stop Hating the Church

I've seen more and more posts with titles like "What's Wrong With the American Church?" and "How the Denomination Needs to Change". I understand that many of these articles are motivated by a desire to help the Church make needed improvements, but too often the tone is not one of concern or love. Too often the tone reads more like rebellion, anger, and arrogance ("Thank God I'm here to fix you!").

Do you know what I haven't seen? I haven't seen nearly as many articles with titles like, "Why I am Grateful for Christ's Body" and "How God is Using the American Church".

So, either the American Church is becoming a monstrosity with absolutely no signs of God's grace at work within her (which not only marks our disobedience but a lack of God working, which is pretty insulting to Him, if you ask me), or we're choosing to focus on the negative more than the positive. We're choosing to see what we believe to be the disobedience of man with more clarity than we see the overwhelming grace of God.

And allow me to note that what a lot of these articles describe as "failures" are actually preferences. One such article described the need for churches to modernize worship, but that usually leads to a generational church (a church made up of a majority of a single age group), which usually dies with that generation and fails to raise up the next effectively (much like Joshua's generation, see Judges 2:8-10). I personally believe that the ideal worship scenario allows everyone the opportunity to worship in his or her own heart language and gives every believer in the room the opportunity to sacrifice his or her preferences so others in the room can worship in their heart language.

But that's my preference, not a command from God. It's not wrong to have a modern worship service. It's not wrong to have a traditional worship service. And it's not wrong to have a balanced worship service. In fact, in order for the American Church to reach all generations, I think we need churches that primarily focus on each of these categories.

We have forgotten how to make sacrifices for the good of Christ's Body, so when we are forced to make sacrifices in order to maintain relationship, we think it's a bad thing. This is why we're seeing more and more independent churches. In order to be a part of a denomination, churches will have to make some sacrifices in order to maintain the relationship, such as giving financially to the denomination or abiding by a covenant. I'm not insinuating that there is anything wrong with being independent from a denomination, but we are seeing a trend toward separatism that seems to strongly correlate to our desire to not be bothered by the demands of relationship and sacrifice, two major themes of the Gospel.

(Personally, I love being Southern Baptist. I see many flaws and weaknesses in our denomination, but I also see how God is growing us through those weaknesses and flaws. I have seen how God has used our working together to further His Kingdom, and I wouldn't trade that for all the freedom sacrificed for this community. I'm not an all-SBC-all-Lifeway-all-the-time kind of person, but I'm grateful to be a small part of this big organization that is genuinely motivated by a desire to please and serve God, though we do it imperfectly.)

We have forgotten that we're talking about the Bride of Christ. Ephesians 5:22-33 makes it very clear that the marriage relationship is a metaphor for Christ's relationship to His Church. But I don't think any husband would put up with the kind of insults being hurled at Christ's Bride. She isn't perfect. She still has a lot of growing to do. She needs to be washed by the water of the Word for a little while longer. But She is still His!

If an imperfect husband wouldn't allow such things to be said about his imperfect wife, how do you think our Perfect Groom feels about the way we speak of His Bride? Are we showing Her the kind of grace that He has shown Her? Are we reflecting the kind of love that Christ said would reveal us for who are (John 13:35)?

What's the solution?

Each of us must focus more on the changes that Christ needs to work out within us more than the changes we want to see in others. I think the thing that concerns me the most about these articles is the attitude that so many of them seem to have. There's an arrogance, and it's deeply concerning. How can anyone be so concerned about his or her own church (and we're all a part of the American Church, if we're American and saved), and not be moved to mourning rather than attack? As I've debated this post, and I have been debating it for months, I've had to test my own patience for the brothers and sisters speak so negatively about Christ's Body. That's an area that needs to grow and develop within me, and that's going to take the Holy Spirit.

Each of us must focus on seeing God's grace at work with greater clarity than we see man's failures. If God is at work, and He most certainly is, then there is something glorious to thank Him for today. There are some wonderful things going on in the American Church. I'm seeing increasing concern for deep, biblical theology. I'm seeing greater missional passion. I'm seeing that we are developing better plans for social justice and human dignity, all wonderful things! No, we're not perfect, but our Shepherd is focused on taking His sheep from where they were to where they are going, and He's more focused on progress than perfection. We can all rejoice in that!

Each of us must choose to submit to the authority God has placed over us and love those He has placed around us. I'm not saying that you should never leave a certain church, but as long as you're in a certain church, it's your responsibility to love it and submit to its leadership. This is also true denominationally. If you hate your denomination, either love it or leave it (and still speak lovingly after leaving it). I'm not saying that we shouldn't speak with other members of our churches or denomination to motivate change. Of course we must have conversations about matters that need change! But rarely does that need to take the open forum of a blog. Blogs (and I'm speaking as someone who is writing a blog right this moment) usually motivate whining more than change. We tend to gravitate toward blogs that affirm the beliefs that we already hold instead of blogs that challenge us to correct our errors.

But whatever situation you are currently in has been designed by God to conform you into the image of His Son. Jesus Christ submit Himself to authority, even when that authority wrongly put Him to death. Jesus Christ loved those who disagreed with Him and went after those who were wrong in order to show them grace. For each of us, the question is how we can emulate Him in whatever situation He has put us.

Each of us must make a point to speak out of Biblical wisdom as God describes it. Too often, we speak of ecclesiastical and theological matters as we would speak of earthly issues, and all too often, the results are very earthly. Many of the posts I read inflate the author and deflate the Church, but how would the world and Church be different if we applied James 3:13-18?

 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.  For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.  But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.  And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

To China and Back

We are drawing closer and closer to July. If the timeline remains constant, that's the month that we will bring our little boy home from China.

We had hoped that our house would sell before now and provide the funds that we need to pay for our travel expenses, but that hasn't worked out quite yet. There is a woman renting the house who wants to buy it, but we're not confident that the sale will go through in time to cover the travel costs, which are substantial. At this point, we need about $10,000 to fully fund our adoption.

As I've started running over the last couple of months, I've learned about something called a virtual 5k. In these races, participants register, pay the dues, and then send in their times digitally to qualify for medals that go to the winners.

Without further adieu, here's our big announcement:

To China and Back 5k
Run to bring Li home!

For $30, you get this terrific T-shirt, and you'll be able to send in your time to compete for one of three medals for the top males and three medals for the top females.

We are strongly encouraging everyone interested to find nine extra friends to run with them. If you can get a group of ten together, we'll cover the shipping and throw in three medals for your top three runners.

A few questions that you may have:

  • Do I have to run? Can I walk?
    You can walk, crawl, stroll, or roll. Honestly, it doesn't matter to us. If you love the thrill of competition, run your fastest and see if you can beat everyone else. We'll post the names of the fastest runners in kids, teens, twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties up on this website as well as reward the top three of each gender with medals that you can display however you want. But if competition isn't your game, that's cool too.
  • Where can I do this thing?
    Anywhere, even on a treadmill. A 5k is 3.1 miles, and the Map My Run app will help you find the perfect route. If you're organizing a group of more than 10 people, we'll happily help you find the ideal course for your race.
  • Is there a certain time or day that I have to complete the run?
    Not really. You can complete the run any day in June. If you run regularly, you can choose your best 3.1 mile run time for the month and submit it as your time. 
  • What if I want to help but can't afford the $30?
    There is a button on our web store for donations. We appreciate any help that you can give! We just think it's a little more fun if you can say that you "did something" instead of just giving money. 

If you have any other questions, please feel free to email me at

If you're interested, you can register right now here
If you would like to organize a group, you can download and print this flyer.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Shame Free Parenting

Over the last couple of years, I have been slowly unwrapping a gift from God that has made a tremendous difference in my life. I hope that you don't mind if I re-gift it to you, but I think it may make a big difference in your life, too.

It's taken me some time to figure out how it works and how to put it to use, but since getting the hang of parenting without shame, I've found that I'm not just happier, I'm much more loving to my kids and others.

What is parenting shame? 

It's the belief that our children's ignorance, failures, sins, or faux pas make us less valuable, less worthy, and generally just less than other parents. It creeps in when a child asks an impolite question in public, when a child misbehaves in front of other moms or dads, when a child struggles to get the kind of grades we hope for, and when they fail to hit certain milestones. 

"Isn't that just a normal part of parenting, though?" 

I used to think so, but then God started to show me that my shame was really rooted in a belief that my kids exist to make me look good. Shameful parenting is actually selfish parenting. It's me focused, not others focused. It comes from a prideful desire to be seen as a great parent instead of a loving desire to be a great parent to the children that God gave me, with all of their faults and struggles. Shameful parenting believes that we are supposed to control our children instead of raise them. Simply put, shameful parenting isn't biblical parenting.

I didn't see how big of a difference this shift was making until one of my precious children, who shall remain nameless, made a super-rude comment in public. "I couldn't tell if she is pregnant or fat." (Awesome! Thanks, kid!) 

Because I felt no shame in that moment, I could simply address the statement and the belief behind it. Because I didn't interpret my daughter's embarrassing statement as my failure, I could remind my daughter that her body is made to be more than eye-candy. I told her, "Her body is doing an amazing thing. She is being used by God to build a whole new person!" I didn't just get to address my child's incorrect belief. I also got to speak to the pregnant woman, who may just feel like she's fat instead of awesome. (Side note: If you can't have children biologically, don't think for a second that your body is any less awesome! God is using you and your body to do amazing things!)

But I could have missed that moment. I've missed more opportunities than I care to count because I was so overwhelmed by what I perceived as failure that I didn't recognize the chance God was giving me to be the mom He has called me to be. I was so focused on what my children's behavior said about me that I didn't notice what it was saying about them. I didn't see their need because I was so focused on my desire to look like a "good mom". 

So what changed? I came to understand that Jesus Christ has justified me completely. I no longer have anything to prove to anyone. His death and resurrection release me from appearance maintenance and enable me to truly live my life for His pleasure instead of for His approval. That one truth has totally, utterly revolutionized the way I do everything, including the way I parent. I still have a lot more to learn and understand, but I'm grateful for this sweet gift from a perfect Father who so dearly loves His imperfect daughter.

For more on shame and how Christ responds to it, you can check out my book, We Win, available on Amazon.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Calling All Prayers!

This is it! It's the week of our first service!

We have been getting ready for this week since we landed here in the fall. We have been looking forward to May 1st for months. We've been working on the building, on the worship service structure, and on getting in tune with God's vision for His church here in Jamestown. We've met with our partner family, and they have worked hard on the lighting and the nursery. We've sent 2,200 invitations to Jamestowners, and we've purchased five billboards around the area.

And you've been a huge part of this process, too! You've been praying, begging God for His help on our behalves and on behalf of the city of Jamestown. Some of you have sponsored chairs. Some of you have sent us encouragement that came at just the right moments. Some of you have come up and worked to give this church plant an awesome start. Thank you!!

But church isn't church without people. We have literally no idea who may show up on Sunday, and that's pretty scary. So now is the time to hunker down with us and pray with a little extra fervency, a little more dedication, and a whole lot of the Holy Spirit. 

Please pray that:
  • God will get the invitations to the right people at the right moments.
  • The weather won't keep anyone from coming.
  • People will be drawn to the church.
  • God will clear the path to church for people who may be struggling.
  • Those who attend will feel loved by us and by our Father.
  • The Holy Spirit will pour down over the service on Sunday.
  • The Spirit will prepare the hearts of those who come.
  • The Word of God will be faithfully preached and joyfully received by the people who attend.
  • The truth of the Gospel will penetrate hardened hearts and strengthen weak souls.
  • God will be worshiped and adored as He deserves.
There is nothing that you can do that is more powerful than praying to our God that He will act, and we need and deeply appreciate your prayers. Thank you so very much for coming alongside us!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why Write?

This is the question that I've been asking myself. I've been trying to build a writing career for years, and so far it has cost me far more than it has made. Very few writers make a living by writing. Most use writing to supplement their income or invest in writing as a promotional tool for other services that they offer, such as conferences.

So here I am, a writer by birth, still asking the question, "Why should I even try?"

There are two answers. First, I can't not write. I've tried a hundred times. I've really tried to give up. It's a very painful thing to face the rejection and disappointment that comes from failed attempts at a writing career, so I have tried to work "regular jobs" and put away all hopes of writing. But then I find myself behind a keyboard, desperately working on something that just has to get out. Sometimes I share it. Sometimes it gets published. Sometimes it never sees the light of day. But it always gets written. Why? I just have to write. It's how God wired me. 

Do I wish that He had wired me to be content in a steady paying job with insurance and no desire to write?

Did He ask me? 


The second answer is a little less practical and far more romantic. There's just something divine about the written word. It's practically immortal. Even if my words are only read by a handful of people, that conversation becomes a permanent part of their story. It may not be a highlight. They may not even remember the experience, but it never ceases to be a part of who they are. That's a huge responsibility, and that's an immense privilege! 

Consider it for a moment. When I read Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, I am thinking the same thoughts that William Shakespeare thought in 1599. Now whenever I hear the word honorable, I think of Antony's speech. ("For Brutus is an honorable man.") It shapes how I respond to the world around me. It changes me.

I will never have the ability or notoriety of William Shakespeare. (And that's okay because I'm still much happier than he ever was.) But I can impact other people through writing. 

It may never make me a dime, but through the written word, I get to be a part of other people's lives, and if I'm very faithful and very blessed, I may just have the immense privilege of drawing other people closer to Christ.

So that's why I write.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Gearing Up

With our first monthly service planned for May 1st, things are getting real here in Jamestown. 

Here are a few praises from the last month:

-We have found an awesome worship leader who is willing to make the trip from Buffalo each month to lead the services this spring and summer!

-The drywall is up in the sanctuary and entry area, and we have another wonderful mission team coming from Tallassee next week to paint these ginormous rooms!

-We have signs!

Please pray for the mission team who is traveling to Jamestown from Alabama this week. Please pray that they will be encouraged and strengthened through this trip and that they are very productive during their stay.

There are many details that we have to get figured out such as lighting, paint colors, bathroom improvements, and childcare rooms. Please pray for wisdom as we try to make good choices that communicate a message of hope to those who attend. Although these decisions aren't especially difficult or weighty, it's a little daunting to make them alone, knowing that they will send a message to the people who enter this space. 

We have billboards that will go in April. Please pray that they will be received with interest and will pave the way for meaningful, personal relationships in the future.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Long Run

So here's the thing: I don't run. 

I mean, I have run. I ran a couple of 5ks two years ago, and then I retired my running shoes because they seemed overwhelmed by the whole thing. Plus my legs hurt, but it was really the shoes. Seriously.

I love the idea of running. It seems super "I'm striving to be a good steward of my body" without being pretentious. The reality of running is where I get stuck. I don't think that God really designed my muscles for running. 

If you remember when Michael Phelps was the rage, you may recall the human interest pieces describing the ways that his body was made to swim. Ridiculously long arms and wide hands combined with double jointed ankles and short legs make him the picture of an ideal competitive swimmer.

I'm a lot like that when it comes to running, except the opposite. I have what I call "inverted bow legs". Other people call it "knobby knees", but what it comes down to is that my weight rests on my knees more than my feet. I tend to pull my thigh muscles really easily. 

But then we went to Disney during a runDisney weekend, and everyone seemed really happy about it. I mean, if you're going to run, it makes sense to run with Disney princesses cheering you on. While at the airport, we heard two women talking about participating in the Glass Slipper Challenge. It requires participants to run a 10k on Friday and then a half marathon on Saturday. That's just under 20 miles. And these two chicks seemed really happy about it.

I want to be happy, too.

So I decided to give it a go. It's about a year off, and there are tons of local runs ranging from 5k to a half marathon in the fall. I can do that, right? It also seems like a good opportunity to become friends with some real runners in the area. That can't be a bad thing.

Thanks to two talkative women in an airport with three highly conspicuous medals around their necks, I now have this on my wall next to my bed:

Writing a book was a very educational experience. The biggest thing that it taught me was the value of the long run. There are some things that just take time and vision. There are some things that are really hard and challenging, and they require constant refocusing. They may not bring the results that you hope, but the process -the run itself- is undeniably valuable.

I don't know if I'll actually make it to the big race at the bottom of my sheet. I don't know if I'll even make it to the half marathon, but I'm in it for the long run.

And if it all works out, there may just be someone who decides to do something crazy because they hear me talking in an airport. That would be pretty cool, right?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Several Quick Updates

We went to Disney World a couple of weeks ago with my family, and it's taken us a while to find our groove after getting back. It was a great trip, and we had a wonderful time with family. We've felt pretty isolated since the move, so it was a needed break with people we love. Plus, Walt Disney World is awesome!
The church plant's website is just about finished, and we cannot wait to show you! There are a couple more finishing touches, but we will unveil the site very soon.
We have received several "Prayers for Chairs" donations! One was from four families that attended the church that my dad served when I was little. It was a really beautiful reminder of God's faithfulness and the love He gives through His people.
We still have a lot of chairs to go, so please click here for more information.
I'm in the final stages of proofing We Win! I don't like promoting it myself, but I do believe that the Gospel is at the center of its message. I want people to know the amazing grace of Jesus Christ and how it impacts every area of life. It's really a great privilege to share that with others.
Edwin's job hours changed slightly, but the small change is making a big difference in our lives. Please pray that God will provide some good family time each week and that He will give Edwin rest. Obviously, Edwin is working extremely hard at his secular job and at church planting. Please pray that God encourages him and gives him strength.
We plan to start meeting with our little core group every week starting at the end of March before our first open service on May 1st. Please pray that God will bring the people that He wants to be a part of this community of believers. Pray that we will build relationships that will have a kingdom impact.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Understanding What I Know

We all know that there's a big difference between knowing something and understanding it. That's never more true than in the Christian life. Every Christian knows the Gospel, but from the time that a person gets saved until they pass into the presence of God, every day is a lesson in what the Gospel actually means. We're constantly unpacking the truths that we already know, which is why a passage of Scripture can hit us like a ton of bricks, even if we already have it memorized.
Today is one of those days when things are just harder. Nothing in particular is wrong. It's just hard. So today is an opportunity to understand something that I already know.
In my time with Him, God led to me to a passage that I've read a hundred times, but it was just what I needed to hear.
May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,  giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. Colossians 1:11-14
That's what I need! I need God's power and glorious might. I need endurance and patience seasoned with joy. I need a heart that gratefully remembers all that God has already done for me through the sacrifice of His Son. I need to keep living in the light, even when the darkness closes in around me.
I need to understand what I already know.
I am loved by God.
I belong to God.
I've been redeemed by God.
I'm qualified to share in the inheritance given to the saints by God our Father.
I have all of the resources of heaven at my disposal.
I am not alone.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


The book that I've been working on since October is set to be released on March 15th!

The best way to describe the writing process is as "a joyous battle". There have been a lot of struggles in the midst of writing and editing the manuscript, but it has come together and turned into something that I am very excited to share. I have ordered the proof copies for final editing, and I'm very grateful for how God has used the experience to change and mold me.

We Win! starts by looking at the ways that Christ displayed His authority during His time on earth and gives us a glimpse of the kind of Kingdom that God is building for His people. The second part looks at how God gives us victory in our lives.

I am really very anxious to share this book with you, but I just wanted to go ahead and give you a look at the cover and let you know to get ready.

I've started a website with more information about the book, so please feel free to head over and check it out! It will continue to grow as we get closer to the release date.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


This week has been very productive, which is always a fun thing to report!

  • We have secured funds for marketing the church plant, and we have started working to lease billboards in the area.
  • We have gotten a bid and set a date for drywall to be installed in the worship space.
  • We have another awesome mission team scheduled to come up and paint the many surfaces needing painting, as well as work on a few other projects.
  • We planned with our mother church to have a group come and do some basic clean-up.
  • Edwin spoke at a men's breakfast at our mother church and had the opportunity to share about what God is doing.
  • We have organized a campaign to pay for new chairs and pray for their future occupants.

All in all, not a bad week at all.

That being said, that much progress requires a lot of time. Between church planting, Edwin's full time job, my writing, and the kids, every moment has been full. We're a little tired at this point, so please pray that God will give us the energy to keep up with His work and rest when needed. 

We are looking for families who would be interested in adopting a chair that they will fund and pray for on a weekly basis. Imagine for a moment that your prayers could mean the difference between eternal life and eternal death for someone that you've never met! I believe that prayer is incredibly powerful, and this is a really cool way to personally impact people that you may not get the chance to meet in this life. They are very real people who matter deeply to God. We're not looking for one family who wants to sponsor ten chairs. Our desire is to find 150 families and individuals who want to personally invest in one chair that will welcome one person every week. We want you to connect with people through prayer and become a permanent part of their stories. If you would like more information about our Prayers for Chairs program, please click here.

Friday, January 29, 2016

In With the New

As the vision for the church plant becomes clearer and the date for our first service (planned for May) approaches, we are seeing more and more work that needs to be completed. Because Edwin works full time, it's very much a team effort. We've gotten some wonderful help in building the website, but we still need to develop the content and find the right photographs. Our heart's desire is that the website communicates a sense of hope for the city of Jamestown. It seems like many of the locals have given up on this city, but Edwin and I know that God's grace could make the future infinitely better than the past.

We met with an interior designer to discuss ways to improve the interior of the church. Although it is a beautiful building, it doesn't reflect the city of Jamestown very well. Almost everyone who has entered has said, "it feels like a cute country church." Jamestown isn't really a "cute country town". It's far larger and more diverse, though it does retain the feeling of a small town. 

(No matter how you slice it, that's a lot of wood.) 

Just as we want the website to reflect a sense of hope for this area, we want the church building to communicate the same message. It doesn't need to feel foreign to Jamestown, but it needs to express the idea of what God wants for this city. We have some good ideas to move forward, and we're looking forward to seeing how God uses this building in the future. It's just a building, and it cannot reach Jamestown for Jesus, but the people who will meet here are more than adequate to turn this place upside-down through God's grace. Please pray that we will make wise choices in the changes that we make to the building. Pray that God provides the financial resources that are needed to make this a safe place that reflects a sense of welcome. Pray that we will prioritize changes well.

Edwin is still doing an awesome job at work, though the cold and snow slow him down and wear him out a bit. Please pray for energy and success as he continues to literally plow through the streets to do his job.

God has begun to build His church here. We have had more and more conversations with people who interested in checking the church out once services begin. We have a family who is coming alongside us to start the new community of faith that God is putting together. Please pray that we will be faithful stewards of the grace that God has given us, and that we won't miss an opportunity to make Him known, praise His name, and share His grace with those around us.

Thank you so much for your prayers and support. They are more effective than you realize.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Part 1 of our Adoption Story

I'll be the first to admit that now isn't the most convenient time to adopt. The church planting process is long and difficult, and we've learned that we're doing it in the most challenging way possible (without a core group). Moving from one place to another and then trying to bring a new family member into the mix doesn't make it easier on the girls. Adoption can be stressful, and it's always costly.
When I bring up Li, which is extremely often, I regularly get the question "Why did you decide to adopt?" It's never asked with judgment or disgust. People simply want to know why we as a family have decided to adopt.
We're adopting for the same reason that we're planting a church. Since all four Attaways have chosen to follow Christ, we are all ministers of the Gospel. That means that all four of us have volunteered to make sacrifices to bring other people closer to a saving relationship with our King. We do this through our everyday relationships, church planting, secular work, and now through adoption.
But adoption has always been a part of our family's calling.
When I was fourteen, my mom handed me a copy of the Birmingham News that included a story about Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman and their decision to adopt. I don't remember what the article said, exactly. I just remember thinking, "I want that! I want a family that is built by grace and not just biology."
From that time, I started praying for the birth mother(s) of my child or children. I prayed that God would use their pregnancies and eventual decisions to surrender their children to bring them into a relationship with Him. I prayed that they would have healthy pregnancies and make good choices on behalf of the children that we would both mother in two different ways. I prayed that God would bless them. I have no idea how God has responded to those prayers.
I also started praying for the child or children that my husband and I would eventually adopt. I prayed that they would be loved until we could get to them. I prayed that they would be cared for and that their needs would be met. I prayed that He would let them know, somehow, that they have a family who loves them and who will not stop until we brought them home.
On my first date with Edwin, I told him that God had called me to adopt, and that it was a deal-breaker for me. I understand that not all men feel that they can love a child that isn't their biological descendant. (Though I don't really believe that they're all correct about that.) Edwin didn't really have an opinion on the matter to that point, and he was more than happy to consider adoption. He let me know that he also came with requirements. He was called to the ministry, and that meant that his wife would need to be called to being a ministry wife. I had already accepted that as a part of God's call on my life, so it looked like we were in the clear.
After Edwin and I got married and had our two beautiful girls, we decided it was time to start actively pursuing adoption. We tried working through the foster care system, but God closed that door. We began to think that He was closing the door to adoption altogether. We couldn't imagine a way to pay the fees and costs of international adoption.
But the idea wouldn't let us go. It was about a year ago that Edwin and I returned to the idea of international adoption. As God had planned it, Edwin knew a man who had become an important leader in a Christian adoption agency. Not wanting to be swindled, Edwin called his trusted brother in Christ to talk about the possibility of international adoption. Although we still didn't understand how we would pay the fees, which came to about 75% of our annual income, we knew that it was what God would have us do and that this agency was how God wanted us to move forward.
So we took out a loan against our retirement to pay the initial fees, and we got going. God has provided in many different ways throughout the process. Many of His people have graciously given to the adoption fund, and we've received grants from a few organizations. I also took on a job to pay the outstanding fees when we needed additional funding.
This summer we found the profile for a little guy who was listed by the name of Maxwell. The list of medical issues seemed long, but we talked to several people, and we eventually spoke to a doctor who had seen the little guy recently. His medical concerns weren't non-existent, but they were certainly manageable for us.
As I looked through the pictures of this precious little boy, I felt hot tears fall down my face. He was mine! I don't know how, but I knew it. I was looking at my son.
It took Edwin a little longer, but when we received a recent photo, he became convinced of the same truth that I had come to know. The little boy in the picture was our child, and we had to bring him home!
It was around the same time that God called us to leave Brushton and move to Jamestown. We moved because that's what God was calling us to do. It meant that we would have to have our home study revised, but it would work out. We could be where we were called to live and adopt the child that we were called to adopt. (I've learned that God's will never contradicts itself.)
Then I learned how God had answered the prayers that I prayed as a teenager. A couple of years ago, a young woman from the Jamestown area felt called to serve God overseas. She followed His voice and found herself in China. In a foster home. Holding a little boy to whom she gave the English name Thad. The young woman prayed for the baby she held, and she prayed for his forever family.
Her parents began to pray for the baby boy who had come into the foster home with several medical concerns. Her parents became one of his sponsors. They contributed to his medical care. The young woman's mom even made a trip to visit her daughter. During her stay, she held the little boy she had loved and in whom she had invested financially and through prayer.
That little boy was my son. I had prayed that God would find someone to hold my little boy and tell him that he is loved and precious and so very valuable until I could get there and do that job myself, and He provided a young woman from Jamestown! Praise God for her obedience to her calling and His faithfulness in all things!
Why are we adopting? We're adopting because we were adopted. We were born into this world broken, in desperate need of a Father to make us His own. We weren't healthy. We weren't the heirs that He deserved. But we were His. He saw us, and He knew that Edwin Attaway was His son, and Hannah, DeLaynie, and Ella Attaway were his daughters.
We are adopting because this little boy is worth every bit of the effort and financial cost that it will take to bring him home.
We're not adopting because we think that this little guy needs us to come and save him. We're adopting because we need God to save us, and so does Li.
We're adopting because it's our privilege to do so.
I know that everything could get more difficult tomorrow. I know that something could take a wrong turn, and we could get our hearts broken. The wonderful news is that since the beginning of time, our lives have belonged to God, and He knows what He is doing. We're just going to keep following Him wherever He leads, and we pray and genuinely believe that one step on that journey will bring our son into our arms.
We sent a box before Christmas, hoping that it would get there in time, but we sent it hopelessly late. The wonderful foster home director sent us these pictures of our little guy as he gets a first look at the photo album that we included. He also got to wear his first "knit by mom" hat. His reaction bears an uncanny resistance to the girls' initial reaction to new knit-wear. 
If you're considering the possibility of adopting from Asia, I highly encourage you to check out this webinar from Lifeline. They are a wonderful agency, and I cannot recommend them more.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

He Goes Before Us

Over the next couple of weeks, we're trying to complete the work that we've already started.

  • I'm trying to finish the first draft for the second part of my book.
  • Edwin is trying to finish the church planting abstract and timeline.
  • We're both trying to finish the adoption dossier and get it sent to our agency where it will be authenticated and processed.
  • We're finishing plans to start a small group.

In the midst of all of this, however, God has reminded us that He has already gone before us. We learned through another local minister that a young woman from a family in the area actually worked in the foster home where our son lives! Her parents, who live just a few minutes from us, have gone and held our little boy and have been supporting him and praying for him.

We needed this reminder. We needed to remember that our God has ordered our steps and prepared each of them to get us to where we needed to be.

Please pray that we will follow God's path in every area of life. Pray that we will prioritize the things that need to get done and work effectively in each area.

We are praying for mission teams late this spring and this summer. If you or your church would like to get involved in the things God is doing in Jamestown, please contact us!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Rubber, Sponge, and Mom's Night Out

I finally saw Mom's Night Out last week. I wanted to see it since it came out, but one thing or another got in the way. Last week everything lined up, and I finally got to see it. It was hysterical!

My favorite scene was when Sondra, the pastor's wife, panics when a waitress leaves a platter of empty beer bottles right in front of her. As Sondra tries to get the demon containers into the trash can, the "Dance Cam" light spots her, showing the entire bowling alley the guilty-looking pastor's wife with her arms full of beer bottles. "Little Miss Busy-Body" from church runs to find a phone to let everyone from church know about Sondra's dirty little secret.

I've tried so hard to be a "good pastor's wife", but I know that I fail to meet everyone's standards, including my own.

During these transitional months, it's been a different experience. (Sometimes I don't even pick out Sunday clothes until Sunday morning, like a crazy woman!) Although I'm enjoying the break from expectations, I'm also learning that just like Sondra, there's no way to prevent disappointment. Some people are going to be unhappy, no matter what.

I recently learned that our previous church was in an uproar about a certain choice that I made about a year ago. Church members were calling church leaders. There were discussions about what could have motivated my decision.

What was the cause of such a debacle?

I changed pews. I moved three rows back from my previous spot on the front row.

Why would I do such a thing?

There wasn't enough room.

That was it. My kids had grown, and so had the other kids who sat on the front pew, and there simply wasn't enough room. I moved pews to have some more space for me and the girls to sit.

And I liked it. I liked being closer to more of the church members. I liked having a pew in front of me to keep the kids from feeling as free to move around. I liked that they saw people in front of them, so they were more aware that they were in church. I liked turning around and shaking hands with more people during the greeting time. (No one goes to the front, really.)

But somehow my little seat change inspired a whole mess of questions, conjectures, and concerns.


Because I was the pastor's wife. The spotlight was going to shine on me when I didn't want it to. People were going to assume the worst when the truth wasn't so bad. All of the pressures of normal life were going to be amplified because my husband was the pastor.

This stuff is normal. Sometimes we just have to be rubber instead of a sponge.

Almost every pastor's wife lives under constant scrutiny, but for me, there are moments when it becomes too much. There are days when the criticism cuts more deeply than it normally does. There are times when I just can't not care anymore because to block out everyone's opinions means I have to wall myself off, and I'm just too lonely to do that. I would rather hurt than be completely alone.

I love these people, even the ones who were so worried about the seating arrangement at church. They're my friends, my brothers and sisters. They're my family. Nothing changes that. All families have issues. We're all just trying to figure stuff out and live as well as we can. We all mess up at it sometimes. I forgive them, and I hope that they forgive me when I say unkind or unhelpful things, too.

I signed up for this whole pastor's wife gig knowing what it entails. But there are some days that I just want to sit in the back, worship my God, and not put on a show for everyone else. God knew that, so He gave us this little break.

He sees me, but He isn't watching to see how I fail. He's watching because He just cares about me.

Isn't that a nice thought?