Feeling Boxed In – A Guest Post for Allison Vesterfelt


What is it about cardboard boxes? Children love them, adults recycle them, and all kinds of good things are contained within them. They are, however, designed to be temporary, reusable, for delivery purposes only. They were never meant to become permanent fixtures — they simply do not have the strength to endure the wear and tear of daily life, much to the chagrin of toddlers round the world.

I’ve watched children use their imaginations to create all kinds of interesting habitats out of a simple, large box. My own kids once made a playhouse, complete with windows and window boxes and a front door that opened and closed. And for a while, they loved playing in it and with it.

Over time, however, the box became wobbly and refused to stand up properly, the edges of the windows and door became frayed and bent and the entire house began to list to the left quite badly. The kids gradually lost interest, realizing that the box had served its purpose well and now it was time to move onto something new for entertainment and experimentation.

Boxes are supposed to have a limited shelf life.

It’s a pity we don’t more fully understand that truth in real life, the life we live from day-to-day, the life in which we human creatures find — or even create — our own special boxes and then crawl right inside them, insisting that the view from there is true and good, and in fact, all there is to see.

A box can be a cozy thing, I suppose. A place with clear boundaries, with edges, a place where we feel protected from the winds of fear and uncertainty, or the temptation of the new and different. And there are stages in our development as human beings when boundaries are needed and important. Children and adolescents need to know there are limits and that there are good reasons for those limits. Even adults recognize that there are some boundaries better left in place, for our own good and the good of our neighbor. As believers in the Book and as followers of Jesus, we choose to believe that those boundaries are divinely inspired, gifts to us for our well-being on the road of life.

But boxes? Boxes are never divinely inspired


Please click on this line to read the rest of this reflection over at Ally Vesterfelt’s lovely blog. . . 

The Sister I Never Had — The High Calling


Celebrating Anita’s Birthday in Choma, Zambia, 1966

About a week before Christmas last year, a wonderful thing happened to me: I was invited to contribute an essay to one of my favorite online magazines – The High Calling. The first idea I had contained the germ of what the essay eventually became. It proved to be an extremely difficult piece for me to write. It’s been 18 years, and the grief is still so strong. I would be honored if you’d follow this link to read the entire piece over at THC . . .


I never had a sister. But I had Anita, with whom I shared adventures, stories, dreams, fears, prayers. We logged a lot of life together and made a lot of memories.

She phoned me one day, eighteen years ago: “Are you sitting down, friend? I have stage 3 breast cancer.” We spent that weekend with our husbands, walking the beach, praying about what direction she should take for treatment. After choosing an expensive and controversial alternative course, she enjoyed 14 months of remission. We wrote notes across the miles between our homes almost every week during that time.

But one night in a darkened theater, we came to watch their son perform in a college play. I twisted around in my fold-down chair to see her, standing in the back of the auditorium the entire performance, her face lined with pain. Looking at her, haunted and frail in the dim light, I knew with every fiber of my being that she was dying. And, oh! She saw that I knew! Her eyes brimmed briefly with tears, we said goodnight and she never allowed me to contact her again. . .

Please follow me over to The High Calling to read the rest of this story. . . 

When Reality Intervenes — Prodigal Magazine



I’m writing over at Prodigal Magazine today, just a small essay about the ordinary stuff of life . . .

So much of life is just plain ordinary. Day in, day out — do the tasks at hand, follow the routine, learn to maneuver the ins and outs of relationships, see to the commitments on the calendar, slide in a little bit of self-care. Yeah, just keep on walking, one foot in front of the other.

That’s why a change in the ordinary can feel like a welcome reprieve, opening the windows of the soul to let the good fresh air of the unplanned blow things around a bit. A change in scenery can do wonders for those ordinary-blues.

Unless, of course, it doesn’t.

We’ve gotten very used to our current state of ordinary. We’re both ‘retired,’ though busy with lots of different commitments and activities. We’ve got the daily routine thing nailed – each of us in separate areas of our home, pursuing our individual commitments, coming together for dinner and bits of conversation throughout the day. After a dozen years of living apart for a piece of each week, this is how we’ve been learning to do life together 24/7.

 And it’s a good, rich life . . .


Spirit-Led Parenting – A Guest Post

One of the great joys of blogging the last two years has been the discovery of a rich community life out here in cyberspace. Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer are two of the many women it has been my privilege to come to ‘know,’ courtesy of the internet. I read a review of their parenting book early this year and was really impressed. So, I ordered four copies! There were four expectant couples in our church community at that time and I could  think of no better gift than an ‘instruction’ book that basically said – listen to your baby and to your own heart and toss out all the ‘shoulds.’  They’re entering round two of the required (and important) PR work for their fine book and I am delighted and honored to host this essay from Laura as they make the rounds of about a dozen blogs in the next few days. I encourage you to interact with Laura here, to think about the questions she asks, and to reflect on your own parenting experiences (if you have children) or about parenting you’ve observed (if you don’t have kids). Just opening the door and saying,  “Hey, I’m not sure about this…what have YOU tried?” can be a tremendously freeing experience. So, go for it!

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  2 Corinthians 3:17
I’ll begin with an honest admission:  I like rules.  I share in the opening chapter of our book that my nightmare assignments in school days were those with an open structure.  Options?  No, thank you.  I prefer guidelines and no-fail directions toward certain success. 
I expected the rules I’d heard for parenting a new baby to lead to that neat-and-tidy success found by so many.  Instead, they didn’t work for me or my baby, and I lived for a time in terror over the implications of what that failure would mean.
As Megan shared yesterday at O My Family, one of the bonds that deepened our friendship and led us to write this book was that we both entered parenthood bound as slaves to fear.  Our purpose in sharing our tear-stained stories is to encourage others navigating life with an infant, inviting them to the pursuit of another way. 
There is an approach to parenting that looks fear in the face and boldly speaks an answer:  Freedom.  Freedom from required formulas, unrealistic expectations of our children and ourselves, and the belief that we must force our babies to fit into a mold that may not have been designed for them.  
– Spirit-Led Parenting, page 42
When we live in fear, we resist the freedom that serves as a banner proclaiming the presence of the Spirit.  Yet Megan and I each found that in spite of our resistance, God beckoned us through the heartache of frustration and failure and offered us an approach to caring for our babies that we desperately wish we had known from the very beginning.  He was calling us into freedom.
  • Freedom to follow His lead first and foremost in our parenting.
  • Freedom to trust in the example of God’s Father heart, Christ’s call to servanthood, and the Spirit’s constant presence as we care for our babies.
  • Freedom to extend grace to those who parent differently, knowing that our Lord leads us individually, according to His flawless will and timing, to answers perfectly suited to our families.
  • Freedom to fail – understanding that perfect parenthood is unattainable, believing that God’s redemptive grace covers our missteps, and seeing our insufficiency as opportunity for our surrender and His refinement.
It was a rocky road, learning to live out what He offered.  But as we began to let go, we gained something unexpected:  a deepening perspective on the glorious, mysterious paradox of dying to self and gaining abundant life.  As two control-loving, perfection-seeking new mothers each woke from a fear-driven haze, we discovered that the cost of our new freedom in parenthood was not at all what we’d expected. 
Where once we believed we would find spoiled children and splintered marriages in the wake of our decisions to turn from the loud-and-popular advice, we found instead our own expectations and desires bowed low.  Where we once held fast to the notion that the “right” methods of baby-care would bring success, we learned that releasing our expectations gave us the freedom to truly follow the Spirit’s lead in every area of our lives.
It’s an approach that welcomes an often messy journey.  One that comes with sacrifice, as is always the case when we pursue a life of serving God and others.  It may mean less predictability and more time.  It may bring the uncomfortable realization that you are parenting off the beaten path, if that path where He has led some is not where He is leading you.  It may mean laying down that precious sense of control. 
But what if as that first year of babyhood winds down and a toddler stands where your baby once lay, what if you looked in the mirror and realized that the one who has grown by leaps and bounds in the past year is you?  What if you could see that in most every situation you encounter, your first response is no longer selfish retreat, but rather selfless embrace?
Would it make you smile with humble gratitude to recognize that in each moment you chose to approach your baby with a heart filled by the Spirit, you were able to more closely relate to and identify with your Lord Jesus Christ than you ever had before?  If you found, for perhaps the first time, that you were truly free in Him? 

– Spirit-Led Parenting, page 54

Living and parenting in freedom is a daily – and often difficult – choice.  We have heard from countless new parents through the years at different points in the journey, and believe that safe and honest discussions can encourage one another along the way.  Will you share your thoughts here today? 
What aspects of parenting in freedom appeal most to you, and which do/did you find most uncomfortable or hardest to embrace?  How has God used your role as a parent for your own spiritual growth, or how do you suspect He may want to do so?

We are deeply honored to share in this space today, and look forward to hearing from you! Find us tomorrow with a post at Narrow Paths to Higher Places

Spirit-Led Parenting is the first release from authors Megan Tietz and Laura Oyer. Megan writes about faith, family and natural living at SortaCrunchy and lives in Oklahoma City with her husband and two daughters. Laura blogs her reflections on the real and ridiculous things of life at In The Backyard, and makes her home in Indiana with her husband, daughter, and son.

Entering the Home Stretch. . . A New Place to Write

This is where I am who I am – in the middle of my family.
With my partner of almost 47 years, our three adult children and their partners,
and our eight grandchildren, ranging in age from 2 to 21 years of age.

I found an invitation in my email inbox last week.
One that surprised me, pleased me and humbled me.

One of my favorite ‘found’ websites, in these 18-20 months of 
exploration, reading, commenting and blog-writing,
is called A Deeper Story: Tales of Christ and Culture.

A variety of people write monthly essays there on a wide variety of topics. 
They don’t always agree with one another, 
they don’t always write things with which I agree. 
But they always write things that I value – 
honest, searching posts, 
filled with questions, 
reflections on the beauties and the pain of life, 
honest admissions of failure, 
invitations to re-think old patterns and prejudices. 

About a week ago, there was a cryptic remark on Facebook
about changes coming to this site.
That made me nervous.
Then I read a little further, 
and I saw that there was going to be MORE 
rather than less of what I loved.

The invitation I got was to become a part of that more.
A Deeper Story is now a 3-channel website.
The original tribe continues to write under the original banner,
with the creative and capable leadership of 
dreamer-extraordinaire, Nish Weiseth,
and two new groups have been added to the flagship –
edited by Seth Haines.
edited by Megan Tietz,
co-author of my favorite new book on parenting
entitled, “Spirit-Led Parenting:
From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year.”
(I’ve given away three copies so far!)

My surprise invitation came from Megan at A Deeper Family.
Since I am undoubtedly a complete stranger to most of this site’s readers, I decided to try and introduce myself with my first monthly contribution.
And the essay you’ll find there today is what
came to me when I tried to think about
who I am right now,
at the age I am,
the stage I am,
the place I am.
I am entering the home stretch,
and this is how I hope (I pray!)
this last part of the journey plays itself out…
I’d be honored if you click over and read. . .

A Guest Post: Window Coverings, Riding the Bus and Growing Up

My friend, David Rupert, has a great series going
this summer – all about first jobs.
He invited me to participate many weeks ago,
and today is the day.
Just a few simple reflections on going to work at age 15,
in retail – selling window coverings, of all things.
My own house today has very few of those – 
because I like to look outside –
but if I had too, I could order drapes with the best of ’em!
Here’s a small sample – for the whole story, please
check out David’s place – it’s a nice place to be:
I’ve had a lot of different jobs in my life – babysitter, lawn-waterer, house-tender, school teacher, stay-at-home-mom, administrative assistant, florist, teaching assistant, staff pastor, curriculum writer and spiritual director. But the year I turned 15, I got my first ‘real’ job. A friend suggested I apply for a position as a retail clerk at a local, family-owned business that sold curtains, draperies and the hardware for hanging them. And I got paid a whopping $1.25/hour. After three years of baby-sitting for thirty-five cents per hour, that sounded like a great idea! I had to apply for a special dispensation from the city government because I was under age, and then, for the next 18 months, I worked every Saturday and all vacation days at Bruce’s Draperies on Orange Street in Glendale, CA. I learned a lot about measuring windows, calculating how much fabric would be needed for custom drapes, and which rods could best bear the weight of which fabric density.

It was boring.

I mean, it was really boring.

But my employers were kind, the customers were gracious – and I got $1.25 per hour!

Here’s the link to David’s house:

Beauty in the Backyard

All my life, I’ve been a reader – I.love.books – all kinds of books. And some of them have been formational for me, sometimes in ways I didn’t fully recognize at the time I initially read them. 

Today, I’m talking about one of those books – over at Sheila Seiler Lagrand’s place.

This one I read almost 50 years ago – can you imagine? 

And I just downloaded it to my Kindle and read it again. 

Come on over and find out why it was such a key piece of my own story. 

Sheila is a most gracious hostess and I’m sure you’ll find lots of other interesting stuff to read while you’re there. You can find her by clicking here.

In Which I Am Honored to Be a Guest at Sarah’s Place

If there is one thing I have learned after 15 months of regular blogging, it is this: THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF FABULOUS PEOPLE OUT HERE. And one of my very favorites is Sarah Styles Bessey, who writes over at Emerging Mummy. Sarah did an amazing thing this week: she compiled a list of 50 “Lady Bloggers” who are making a contribution to the ongoing cyber discussion of faith and life. It’s a wonderful, list – rich with variety and spice and fabulous stuff.

But I noticed something and I wrote to her about it: there were only 1 or 2 names whose lifespan exceeded about 40 years. And that felt like a sizable gap to me – and it felt the same way to her. So she challenged me to create a list of my own – of articulate women over the age of 50. What a great project to do. I enlisted the help of some friends and today, Sarah is posting the list at her place. I urge you to go over and check out some of the blogs we’ve found. And I know there are lots and lots of others out there, too – so leave a comment, either here or there, and send us lookin’ for more.

And a huge thank you to Sarah for her hospitality!

Here’s the link: http://www.emergingmummy.com/

The Source of Life…a Guest Post

I am writing with the good folks over at bibledude.net today about some of the words in 1 John 5…

When you stop to think about it, the longevity of the church of Jesus Christ is pretty remarkable. Over 2000 years and the church still stands, proclaiming the miracle of transformation through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus – who was, is and will always be the Son of God, embodying for the world the essence of God’s love. Just last week – churches all over the world walked through Holy Week, climbing to the cross in remembrance of Jesus’ sacrificial death. And just yesterday, we celebrated the glory of the empty tomb – the perfect picture of the new life found in Jesus. The vitality of our story is unchanged over time; the center remains.
Because let’s face it, without Jesus right there at the center of it all – the church is not the church. And the writer of 1 John wants to remind these early believers to hang onto to Jesus for dear life. He writes from the loving heart of a concerned pastor, someone who cares deeply about the believers in and around Ephesus. And he writes to remind them to be the church…
Joining the Community Bible Study series on 1 John today – over at The Bible Dude’s good space. Join me over there to read this whole reflection?