Guard your heart, bro.

Once upon a time, we took a short line from the Bible and we turned it into a life song for girls. We slapped it on silver promise rings and we stamped it on rubber bracelets. We emblazoned it on fitted v-neck T's, engraved it in hinged lockets, and chickified it in every way imaginable. Then we developed flowery, heart themed girls-retreats around it to ensure that our daughters would embrace it.

      "Above all else, guard your heart..."
                                    Proverbs 4:23

We admonish our girls to guard their hearts, and we warn them about "giving away pieces of their heart" in the form of every kind of love to the unworthy slobs they hang out with after school. Then we wind their "heart" up with their virginity so tight it becomes a two-fer-one deal - in the process of guarding their hearts, we end up guarding organs south of border. It's a pretty brilliant plan, when you think about it.

Oh, and we train our boys, too, but not to guard their heart. To our boys we say,"For the love of God, avert your eyes and keep your johnson in your pants."

I'm, like, kind of an authority on guys because I have a husband who is a guy, and I have lot of friends who are guys, and, also, I have a bunch of kids who are all guys. So yeah, listen to me when I say that it turns out guys really don't talk about their hearts that much. In fact, most of the guys I know don't talk about their heart at all. And I'm guessing 90% have never, ever been told to guard their heart. Probably because everybody knows that's totally a chick thing to do.

As the mother of 2.8 teenage sons, I win the awkward award for trying to engage dudes in these conversations. When I start talking about heart stuff, the eye rolling gets so intense it blows my hair back. This makes me nervous, so I do that thing where you try way too hard to be hip and relatable and end up saying stupid crap, like, "The Bible says you need to guard your heart...dawg."  And then my kids shake their heads, "No, Mom... Just, no." So then I say something even more idiotic, like, "I'm just bein' straight wichyou. My boy, Solomon, was, like, the wisest brother to ever walk the planet and it's his advice, not mine, Bro." And then one of them will point out that they are, in fact, not my "bro".

It's all very embarrassing. And worthwhile.

I don't think that our men are reminded often enough that they need to guard their hearts.

We teach them to guard their eyes, but I want my sons to know and understand that what porn does to their eyes isn't what will break them, it's what it does to their heart that will eventually leave them empty and hurting.

And we teach our men to guard their junk, to keep it in their pants, but I want my sons to know and understand that what promiscuity does to their loins isn't what will break them (although herpes is no cakewalk), it's what it does to their heart that will leave them lonely and aching for more.

I want my kids to get it when I tell them that the greatest thing they can bring into marriage will be their own well-guarded heart. A heart that, for all of its years and to the best of its ability, has borne the wisdom of Solomon"For [those words] are life to those who find them and health to a man's whole body."

When I look around the church, when I talk amongst my friends, when I gaze into the world - I see men who are broken and hurting, men tied to their addictions, men out of control, men drowning in lust, so many men longing for peace and grace and mercy, and in desperate need of restoration for their tattered and broken hearts. Hearts that have gone unguarded for far too long. And I want to break this verse like an alabaster jar over their brows. I want to pour out the perfume of Redemption on their lives. I want to release the words of Solomon to his sons, that they may be free to take up their spears and stand guard over their own hearts, because their hearts are worthy of the effort.... above all else....

                  "Above all else, guard your heart, 
for it is the wellspring of life."

...above all else..... above all else.... above all else..... guard your heart, Bro.


Pin for Good and not for Evil.

I've got these boots, like the kind of brown knee-high riding boots you see everywhere these days, and I wear them all the time.

I like them just fine in Costa Rica, because not as many people in Costa Rica have riding boots, so when people see them they think they're pretty cute. But when I wore my boots in the states, I hated them because all the girls had boots and all of their boots were way better than my boots. So that made me feel all self-conscious and stuff, like everyone who saw me was judging me for wearing cheap-ass boots that I paid $8 for after buying them on super-duper sale at Old Navy and using a gift card.

The truth is, I will be sick of knee-high riding boots in a year and I'll probably never wear them or want to see them again. And I live on a tight budget, so my $8 investment was the only one that made sense. For me, it was $8 boots or no boots. But still, I felt kinda lame standing next to the girls with nicer, cooler, hipper boots. Which was, basically, all the girls.

Sometimes I feel myself leaning harder into the world than I ought to. And this was one of those times. I felt an inkling of resentment for my chosen lifestyle, coveting the things I want but can't have.

Pinterest messes with my head like that, too. Seriously. It does something to me.

If you're not sure what Pinterest is (and there are only 3 possible reasons why don't know about Pinterest: 1. You live in a cave and have no friends, 2. You're a hamster, so your hands are too small to use the internet, or, 3. You have a penis.), it's an online collection of fabulous ideas, like a pin board for all your most favorite internet finds - which you can then share with other people who can "pin" them on their boards. It's pure genius!

But I've fallen into a love/hate relationship with Pinterest.

I love it because it inspires the artist in me. It gets my crafty juices flowing and makes me want to make my home a better, more beautiful place to live. It pushes me to take more pictures. It excites me to make delicious meals. It leads me to "upcylce" my clothes, and has made my tired, old wardrobe kinda fun again. It has even helped to spur the athlete hidden underneath this veneer of old-lady blubber.

But it does something else, too.

Sometimes it makes me unhappy with what I've got - even when what I've got is perfectly fine, liiiiike pleather boots that make your feet sweat like an oiled hog on a summer day, for example.

Occasionally, as I'm scrolling through Pinterest at midnight, I forget that while I want to live in the world, I don't want to be of the world. I want to be relevant and modern, and I want to be approachable, but the invisible line between "relevant" and "materialistic" is easily blurred. And using the term "approachable" as an excuse to be self-serving is a terrible kind of hypocrisy.

So I made a little list to keep myself on the up and up...

To pin for good and not for evil:

Good: Find awesome new cupcake flavor, pin it, make 2 dozen and share with friends.
Evil: Find awesome new cupcake flavor, pin it, immediately drive to bakery to buy one, ok two, at $3 a piece... and a latte. Eat in car. Feel ashamed.

Good: Find cute outfit with pieces similar to what you've got in your closet, pin it, wear it.
Evil: Find cute outfit that you have no hope of ever owning, pin it, drool over it. Get pissed off every time you open your closet and it's not in there.

Good: Find new ways to cook healthy meals, pin them. Eat up.
Evil: Find new ways to cook crappy food in the form of cupcakes; meatloaf cupcakes, bacon cupcakes, macaroni and cheese cupcakes, pin them. Eat up. Die young.

Good: Find "10 Easy Steps to an Ass You Can Bounce a Quarter Off Of", pin it. DO IT!
Evil: Pin ALL the glistening, hard-bodied, 110 pound girls. Hate self. Keep surfing Pinterest instead of working out.

You can see how easy it is for me to slip into that weird place where rather than being inspired to do something awesome, I become either self-indulgent or self-loathing. The key for me, as I'm clicking around on Pinterest, or playing the comparison game with chicks with cute boots, is to remember to ask myself -

Will I use this to conform to the pattern of the World, or will it lead to the renewing of my mind (body or spirit) which pleases God?
....          .....         ....

Are you on Pinterest? or are you a dude... just kidding.
Have you experienced the dark side of pinning?
What would you add to your personalized "Pin for Good and not for Evil" list?

Oh, and if you're interested, here are my boring boards on Pinterest.


Proud Wife of the Bearded Giant.

My husband is practically famous in Costa Rica.

Ever since he started coaching and playing North American football we get stopped everywhere we go by people who want to shake his hand, "Hey, you're that football guy!" We're walking through the mall and people nod at him, "Hey, Coach!" We're waiting for a pizza and there's some old man to say, "I saw your team playing in La Sabana."  He's at the DMV and the girl behind the desk is all, "Don't you play for the Rhynos?"

I guess you could call him kind of... notorious.

Just this morning I was stopped by the guard at my kids school and he said, "Eres la esposa del Gigante Barbudo, verdad?!" (You're the wife of the Bearded Giant, right?!)

Yup. That's me. I'm the wife of the Bearded Giant. 

Everybody knows who he is. And me? Well, I'm like the base player to his lead singer - everybody knows I belong with him, but nobody really knows my name. Some people might have a hard time living in El Chupacabra's shadow (and, if I'm being honest, I'll tell you that I do sometimes get jealous of his ability to grab life by the nuts), but the reality is that I don't mind taking the backseat one bit. Actually, I kind of love it.

I'm incredibly proud of my man. 

But it's not because of that oh-so-glorious beard...

And it's not because of his above average stature...

...I mean, I do love these things, and I do think they make his bones totally jump-worthy, but those aren't the things that make me feel like I won some kind of marriage lottery. Nope. The thing that makes me swoon, the big thing that makes me feel lucky to be his wife - the wife of the Bearded Giant, the Goose to his Maverick, the fries to his BigMac, the Thumper to his Bambi - that thing is that his love for Jesus is unmistakeable.

His love for Jesus is unrelenting. 

His love for Jesus is unflappable. 

His love for Jesus is uncontainable. 

And because of these things, my love for Jesus has become more and more tangible, more real, more mature and more noteworthy.

And, really, besides all that, what kind of self-absorbed a-hole doesn't like to see their spouse succeed?!  Not this kind. *points to self*

Anyway, aaaaall of that to say that El Chupacabra and some of his players were recently featured on an episode of La Media Docena, which is a Costa Rican sketch comedy show (think Saturday Night Live). If you don't speak Spanish, this clip will mean nothing to you, so you'll have to trust me when I tell you that it's pretty darned funny!

The premiss of the skit is that there was a mistake when the football team's owner booked a guy to pump up the players with a pre-game speech and they end up with a preschool teacher instead. I think El Chupacabra is a natural.

Yeah, I know... he's amazing. Hit me up if you want his autograph.

....          .....          ....

Brag about your spouse - DO IT! Ready...Set...GO!!!
If you're not married, brag on somebody (ANYBODY) you're super proud of!


Missionary Positions: Doing it by doing nothing.

Today's contribution to Missionary Positions comes from Sandra, the chick with the coolest hair on Twitter. I love what she brings to the conversation:
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The Do-Nothing Missionary

Everyone once in a while I’ll schedule a do-nothing day. I’ll literally walk over to the calendar—the one I’m usually too busy to update—and write, nay, DECREE a do-nothing day. Once it’s written, that date is as immovable as my lazy bum on a do-nothing day.

All the energy typically be spent running frantic from one obligation to another is spent simply being. The “look good, feel good, be right, and be in control” mask comes off. And for an entire and glorious day, I can rock my Zuul the Gatekeeper hair and hobo-esque attire and be authentic.

That’s where my mission field is. In that sweet spot of being relaxed, authentic, and, sadly, still frizzy haired—even on a do-something day. I get rid of that all-too-familiar anticipation. The kind that waits for the moment to interject some eternal truth when a friend just wants to talk about the best black and tan she’s ever had.

It’s not that I go around being as fake as the weight on my driver’s license. It’s just, I don’t want to be a loner, Dottie. No one does, for that matter.

We’ve each, to some degree, developed the socially acceptable self (the one that talks about the weather and how work is going and how the kids are doing) and hidden the real self (the one that says gray days make them sad and work is fleeting compared to your passion and the kids are slipping away because you’re never there).

Strutting our socially acceptable selves seems especially common among believers, where we feel the pressure to make disciples of all nations, and teach them the ways, and have the joy, joy, joy, joy down in our hearts.

But you know what I discovered?

In my effort to make disciples of my nonbelieving friends, I identified them as nonbelieving rather than simply my friend.

In my effort to teach them the ways, I told them the ways and disagreed with theirs.

In my effort to have that joy, joy, joy in my heart, I hidden the sad, sad, sadness that sometimes creeps in.

I was douchey. And completely unrelatable. (‘Cause, really. Who wants to relate to a douche?)

So on my calendar, and in my heart, I’ve decreed a do-nothing day mentality all day every day. Because when I see my friends as separate from their beliefs, they feel accepted. When I stop trying to convince people of my beliefs, they feel at ease. (Quite contrary to my get-paid-to-do-this mission of apologetics, by the way.) And when I share my sufferings with others, they feel safe to do the same.

In other words, my mission is to do nothing. Just be.

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Want more? You can follow Sandra's musings on the Twitter machine. Trust me, you'll love her!

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When was your last "Do Nothing Day"?

Ever considered adopting a "do nothing" attitude toward discipleship and evangelism? 

*On a side note*  If I wasn't so chicken-shit, I would totally do something amazing with my hair. Maybe on my next (first?) do-nothing day, I'll man up and go crazy. 


Because the Bible is kinda... weird.

Yesterday this popped up in my Twitter mentions:

I loved it for 3 reasons:

1.  The guy is asking for pointers - I'm always impressed by people who ask questions and seek direction. 
2.  The tweet itself reads ever so slightly passive-aggresive, which means that Nowhere Man and I could probably be BFF's in real life. 
3.  Duh. I'm a missionary - Hoping that a person will give the Bible a chance is, like, what I do.

Also? This really resonated with me because when I first became interested in the whole Jesus thing, someone gave me a Bible and I practically ran home because I was so excited to dive in. But, unlike my twitter friend, Nowhere Man, I wasn't smart enough to ask for suggestions as to the best way to do that. So, since the Bible is a book (and I've always been in the habit of starting books in the beginning and ending them at the end) I opened it to page one and just started reading.

Now, you may already know this, but the Bible is kinda... weird.

No one had ever mentioned that to me before.

I had always heard the Bible described with words like 'inspiring' and 'true' and 'life-changing'.

No one ever warned me that the old Testament is forever talking about creepy things like incest and murder and foreskin. And everybody is raping everybody. And they're stealing everybody's wives and their cattle and their inheritance and junk. By the time you get to Leviticus, you might be horrified disgusted appalled alarmed by the constant spilling of blood and semen, and the all too regular seduction of men by their daughters, and sons who fool around with their step-Moms, and by all kinds of whoring and concubining, and family betrayal, and the killing of babies, and other completely messed up stuff that you just weren't expecting. And you might be inclined to close the Bible and push it across the table wishing you could unread some of it, because you feel like, "Seriously, God?! What was that about?!"

It's that weird. 

And that's exactly what happened to me. I sat down and started reading in Genesis, ready for the all the words I'd ever heard about the Bible to come true, ready for all of its wisdom and truth and to come pouring into my soul. And maybe some little part of me really did believe that I'd open up this ancient text and be instantly moved, indwelled by some kind of Spiritual understanding, and that it would change my life forever and ever. But that's not even close to what happened.

Instead, I opened the Bible, read a few chapters, and closed it - feeling confused and kinda disturbed.  I was disappointed. And I was pretty sure I wouldn't be diving back in for more anytime soon. I didn't find it relatable, or even sensible. Mostly, it just left me scratching my head, like "For real?!"

Luckily, around that same time a dear friend invited me to a Bible study at her house. I was beyond reluctant, but I went anyway - probably because someone promised brownies. The people in that group never made me feel like a dumbass for my Bible-idiocy. Like, I practically lost my nut when someone pointed out that the Bible had a Table of Contents, right there in front (Who knew?!), but nobody acted like I was a moron for not knowing that. That group would continue to walk with me, slowly and carefully, through the pages of the Bible for years to come. They became the friends who would guide me past the weird stuff I'd gotten hung up on in my first foray and on to other themes, good stuff, like Grace and Mercy and Hope. It was with that same group of spiritual caretakers that I would first read through the Gospels, hear from James and Paul, and learn the plight of the early church. And from those fellow lovers of Jesus, I would come to understand the Bible as one whole story, with its greatest message being the sum of its parts... even the weird parts.

Which brings me to my two big awesome tips for reading the Bible:

1. DON'T START AT THE BEGINNING (because it will freak you out)!
I asked El Chupacabra what advice he would give a first time Bible reader and he recommended starting off by reading the Gospels in chronological order (Bible-y folks call this a "Harmony of the Gospel" because Christians can't be trusted to use secular words, like "chronology"). This method will have you bouncing around a bit, but it can give you a cohesive idea as to how Jesus lived, taught, traveled and spent his time. I'm a fan. And, yes, El Chupacabra is a genius.

2. DON'T GO IT ALONE! Find someone whom you trust, and who is farther along than you are in the process of following Jesus, and study the Bible WITH that person (or, better yet, people). And ask a TON of questions. Also? Use the bazillion resources at your fingertips to find answers to your questions. (*hint* When not being used to feed ugly porn habits, the internet can be a rich source of material related to understanding the Bible. Help yourself.... to the Bible stuff, not the porn stuff. Stay away from the porn stuff.)

And the only other thing I would add to my list of super-incredible-how-did-I-not-think-of-that-?!-Bible-reading-tips-of-the-Century is....


Let it marinade. Let yourself stew in it for a bit.

For me, understanding the Bible is a process. I had to learn to give it time to sink in. I had to soak it up. I had to wrestle with it for a long while before any of it made any sense at all. But I find that the more time I spend with it, the more of it I am able to take on. I don't always get it. I still close it sometimes to push it across the table and scratch my head in confusion. But, for me, one thing is certain; Having a Savior isn't just an idea that I carry in my head anymore, it has become a Truth which has penetrated my very flesh and bone, it beats in time with my heart, whispers in my breath, and stirs my soul... 

And I pray, Nowhere Man, as you begin to search the wonder and weirdness of the Bible, that the same may be true for you.

....        .....       .....

Does the Bible ever confuse the crap out of you? 
What tips would you give to someone cracking open the Bible for the first time?


Missionary Positions: How a Real Estate Agent Does It.

Today's post comes to us from Julie Shreve (who I met in real life at a bloggers meet up last month in Atlanta! How cool is that?! and) who shows us that sometimes, even in real estate, it's best to just shut up and listen. Love it!
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How a real estate agent does it

When I first started in real estate a few years ago I did a lot of talking.  I could tell you what I thought were the coolest and best features of each room.  I would let you ask me questions, and then I would come up with an answer as best I could.  Sometimes it was the exact answer you were looking for. Sometimes it was, “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

I did a lot of talking.

In fact, I did way more talking than I sold homes. 

What I had forgotten is that you could see all of these things for yourself.  It was just my job to invite you to look and then let you in. 

I had to readjust my priorities.  I didn’t get into the job to talk people into buying a house that they didn’t really want.  I got into real estate to help people find a place to love, a place where they  would want to spend the rest of their lives and, most importantly, a place to call home.

Come to think of it, that’s not why I’m a follower of Christ either.  I don’t invite people to church so I can talk them into this religion thing.  It’s my job to meet you where you’re at and invite you in.  I want you to come see the wonderful things that Christ has to offer, but it’s not my job to try and convince you that this is the way you need to go.  I can’t forget that you’re invited to look and see for yourself. I can't talk you into anything.  

So I talk a lot less about houses these days.  I try to engage you in conversations about what you like and what you don’t like, whether it be something to do with a house or your favorite yoga class.  I want to know you.  That’s the most important thing. 

Because the longer I go through this life, the more I find that it’s not what you say.  It’s how you listen.  And it’s not what you do.  It’s how you love.

Do you find it as hard as I do to just sit and listen?

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You can find more from Julie on her blogs, The Esau Project and Run with the Big Girls, and catch her on Twitter


Ditch the Hourglass.

Our car wouldn't start this morning. Nothing new there.

It's sitting down the street, where it ended up after my husband and son pushed it in an effort to pop-the-clutch. Sadly, no amount of clutch-popping could bring it to life this morning, so it will just have to sit there until a mechanic can come take a look.

I walked in the house, frustrated over the car, and I looked out the back door into what used to be the yard, but is now an overgrown white-trash jungle ever since our mower kicked the bucket. There's just no money to fix it. 

There's no money to fix anything.

“It's ok.” That's what I told myself. I took a deep breath, gazing over waist-high grass, and I reminded myself that we can live with an embarrassing yard and we can also live without a car. And while I feel mostly sure about the yard, the car thing has me a little more confounded since we have kids to shuffle back and forth to school and work stuff that can't be ignored - But still, we'll live. We'll be ok.

I can't fix cars, but I can fix breakfast, so I offered to make my husband something since he was home waiting for the mechanic. I told myself to be grateful as I pulled out the toaster, because it's on its last leg and must be watched carefully lest things catch fire, but hell, it still makes toast. And then I grabbed a pot holder to prop up my frying pan. It has a broken handle and the bottom is warped so that it wobbles on the burner while you're cooking, but a couple of pot-holders, folded just so, and you're good to go. I snagged a couple of eggs and the bread from the pantry, thankful for the food at my disposal. And that's when I saw the butter.

My black cat from hell had licked the butter.

Aaaand? I completely lost my shit.

I started pacing back and forth. Tears burned my eyes and my heart began to pound, because DAMMIT, DO YOU KNOW HOW MUCH THAT BUTTER COST?! I have seen that cat put his tongue on parts of his anatomy that don't even have names - they're that obscure and disgusting. Now my butter is all contaminated with stuff that comes from those parts. How, God?! How will we ever survive if we CAN'T EVEN MAKE EGGS AND TOAST?! Life washed over me like an ocean as I stood in my kitchen in despair because my cat chewed his balls and then licked the butter. I mean, WHAT WILL I EVER DO?!?!

I am a time bomb attached to an hourglass, the sands of anxiety spill through a tiny hole in my heart, collecting higher and higher. I'll carry all this weight around with me, until that last bit of sand, the tiniest little thing, crushes my spirit. And then? Ka-boom!

My problem is not that my cat is the spawn of Satan, himself, sent to destroy me. (Although, he is.)

My problem is that my car broke down and everything else around me seems to be crumbling into chaos and the grass is trying to swallow the house and there's no money to fix anything and one of my kids has a crappy grade in math and he's giving me all kinds of attitude about it and my pants are too tight and I didn't sleep very well because I sensed some kind of tension between me and El Chupacabra and even though I don't know what it is I know it's there because our feet weren't touching in bed and I'm overwhelmed with a project and we carved pumpkins last night which was super fun but the whole time my heart was twisting inside of my chest because my oldest child will be moving out next summer and that might have been the very last time that our family sits around a table together stabbing gourds with knives and... you know... I really haven't been the kind of Mom I wanted to be for him... and now I'm out of time. And the cat licked the butter.

And just like that, the hourglass is full. It can handle no more. So the time bomb goes off in the kitchen, over the quarter inch print of a cat-tongue in the butter dish. And I appear, for all the world, to be a humongous spaztard with a complete inability to cope, when, in fact, I'm just like anybody else who is drowning in the sands of time, overwhelmed by how fast the world is happening around them. Cars growing too old. Grass growing too tall. Marriage growing too cold. Work growing too demanding. And kids, Oh!, these kids - they're growing up way too fast.

So, I poured some coffee and I told God in no uncertain terms that I don't think I can handle it anymore. “I'm done. I'm tired. I just can't handle any more of... anything.”

And God was like, “You can't handle it?...What on Earth made you think it was yours to handle in the first place?"

Then, as if to teach me a lesson, the mechanic showed up and started our troublesome car with no trouble at all, I got a positive email from the math teacher, and fifty bucks arrived in my Paypal account. Like magic. But not. 

And I realized that I had tied myself to the hourglass, forgetting, first, that it always leads to a time bomb, and second, that Jesus, in his great mercy to humanity, has offered us a different burden to carry, saying:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
And I love that he's not saying “La la la, I'll make your life easy!” but instead he says learn from me and I'll teach you how to carry your burdens in a new and better way, a gentle and humble way, a way that doesn't include you drop-kicking a cat. And then he shows you, as you walk together, where to find Peace when your bank account is empty, and Hope when your kid is giving you crap, and Rest when your marriage is wearing you out, and Grace, so much Grace, when your baby walks out the door, a grown man.
It's an invitation to ditch the hourglass. 
....       .....      ....
Have you ever felt like a time bomb, ready to go off at any moment?..... No? Oh. Well, what if your cat licked the butter?!