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    Giving Thanks for Everything

    Today, some of us will gather around festive tables, eating our fill of roasted turkey, whipped potatoes, and pumpkin pie. It’s Thanksgiving in the United States, and so we pause today to celebrate —to give thanks—for a year filled with beautiful and hard things. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Perhaps there’s a chair at our table sitting empty this year. There’s a longing within us that a smile can’t dull. Maybe there’s financial stress that the holidays only highlight. A festive tablescape and full stomach may make us feel good for a moment, but they cannot fix the hurts and heartaches that we often carry with us…

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    Unexpectedly Beautiful

    The temple mount towered in the background. The Gate called Beautiful cast a shadow on a man’s weathered face. Friends carried him to the gate every day, and he spent his hours pining for alms. He eked out an existence by playing on others’ piety. There was nothing beautiful about this man’s life or the religion practiced within the walls that stood behind him. The temple excluded the needy from its entrance because of their infirmities. The place that should have brought spiritual healing only gave handouts. So he never expected to find salvation outside the temple gate. As the hour of prayer approached, the man continued his plea for…

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    Searched

    Every time I step into the airport security line, I feel a little sick to my stomach. There’s something so unnerving about the possibility of having my bags searched. I know these practices keep our skies safer, but they still intimidate me. Fortunately I’ve only been escorted from the line once.  After a spending a week in Minnesota with a girlfriend—enjoying a reprieve from the Texas summer heat—I packed my suitcase and prepared to re-enter the hundred-degree temperatures of my home state. Before we left I picked up a wild rice pancake mix for my parents made from the famous Minnesota staple. As my bags passed through the x-ray machine…

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    Is God Holding Out on Me?

    My one-year-old sits in his highchair, cramming watermelon into his mouth. He can’t get it in fast enough. In between bites, he fusses. If there’s not a spare piece or two waiting on his tray, he complains. Despite the fact that we generally give him as much watermelon as he wants, he still fears a shortage. As I watch the scene unfold over lunch, it hits me. My son thinks I’m holding out on him. And in a sense, I am. I don’t want him to fill his mouth so full of watermelon that he chokes. So I give him a piece or two at a time—then wait for him…

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    Teaching our Kids about Pain, Suffering, and Hope

    “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” It's a popular mantra we recite to children in our churches. And it's true.  One of the greatest lessons we can teach our kids is that God is good and gracious—it's the heart of the gospel, the anchor of our faith, and what sets our beliefs apart from other world religions.  But there's more to what we believe. And sometimes we miss it until we walk through pain and suffering and are forced to confront the fact that Christianity isn't easy. Walking with God, in the most complete sense, certainly involves struggles and even loss.  I remember being faced…

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    Cutting Teeth

    There’s a reason why “cutting teeth” became a popular phrase to describe a newcomer struggling to learn a task. Cutting teeth is hard—as any momma and her child can attest. Swollen gums. Sleepless nights. Endless fussing with no relief. Weeks of waiting for a single tooth to painfully push itself through.  Our first foray into leadership often feels like those early infant days of cutting teeth. We work countless hours, often on little sleep. We muddle through conflict, navigate bureaucracy, and endure opposition. We question our purpose. We struggle and strive and stress for what feels like years with seemingly little to show for it. Where’s that beautiful pearly white…

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    Afraid of the Woman in the Mirror

    You tug at the corner of your eyes, smushing them upward then pulling them down. “Who is that?” You wonder to yourself as you gaze into the mirror.  Maybe it's the dark circles betraying an illness that caught you by surprise. Maybe it's the fine lines, telling the story of stress and toil. Maybe it's the weary look in your eyes begging for sleep.  Before you can answer, you snap your head and look away, unwilling to gaze any longer.  Have you ever been there?  Recently I had one of my own mirror moments. And as much as I've tried to forget it, I can't.  Such glimpses force us to…

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    A Lesson from the Vacuum: What it Taught Me About God

    His eyes flashed with anxiety. What is the whirring sound coming from the living room? They asked. My eight-month-old looked to me for reassurance. “It’s okay,” I said. “Daddy is vacuuming.” Immediately, the words sank deep into my soul. The lesson I was trying to teach my son is one I needed to hear myself. Daddy holds the vacuum. At two-and-a-half feet tall, a towering four-foot purple vacuum with the word Shark written on the front seems to threaten your very existence. It might just suck you up along with the dust bunnies on the rug. Isn’t that how we feel about life sometimes? The storm whirls around us, large…

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    Why Pushing Hard Isn’t Always Worth It

    “Push.” We hear it everywhere. This simple word has become a mantra for how to get more out of life. Push yourself at the office until you get the promotion. Push yourself to create a Pinterest-worthy home. Push yourself to do one more load of laundry, send one more email, do one more thing before bed.   Push. Push. Push. It’s the drumbeat that drives our lives as we put one more thing on our already packed to-do list. And it seems to work.After all, isn’t it the pushy entrepreneur who lands the big deal? Isn’t it the pushy mom who has the more accomplished kids with the prettier birthday…

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    Getting Over Mommy Guilt

    It’s real. That pain in your gut feeling that you don’t teach enough, bake enough, snuggle enough, read enough, pray enough — and generally aren’t enough. Mommy guilt plagues us as we do our daily chores and celebrate milestones. The pressure to do more than we can, be more than we are, to give more than we have wells up from within. It leaves us feeling hollowed out, empty from trying to meet expectations that we can never quite achieve. Whether you’re a seasoned mom or just starting out, the daily challenges of raising kids wear on us. We’re tempted to absorb every stumble and struggle—telling ourselves that if only…