First Steps

Russell still walking on his knees
Russell still walking on his knees

Russell is a late walker. He is 16 months old now and mainly he still walks on his knees. Here is the thing: he can walk. I see him do it, but he just moves so fast walking on his knees that I guess he thinks,  “Why bother?”. When the knee-walking works so well, the motivation to change is just not very high.

I understand, Buddy. I am late at a few things too. I am late at learning that not every situation can be smoothed over, no matter how hard I try.  I am late to accept that love and small resentments can co-exist, and that doesn’t mean that the ship is sinking. I am late at realizing that almost everyone does what they do for a reason, and if I will listen long enough, I may just come to understand why.

But you know what? Late is okay sometimes, and grace is for the late ones. First steps will come soon enough.  In the meantime, from the first steps until the last steps, God’s grace is sufficient for both of us.

Baby Don’t Struggle

When our one-year-old son Russell doesn’t want his diaper changed, or doesn’t want us to put on his clothes, or doesn’t want to get in his car seat, he can put up quite a struggle for a 20-some pounder. Gabby, our au pair, will often say in her Chinese accent, “Baby, don’t struggle,” when trying to get his diaper on or a shirt over his head.  It’s so cute how she says that phrase, and when I hear her, I wonder if God ever says something like that to me.

When Russell struggles against something that is so obviously good for him, I wish I could communicate in a way he could understand. … “Baby, this seatbelt will keep you safe,” I might say, and he would smile and calmly settle back against the seat… I suppose he will learn as he grows.

I wonder if when I struggle, God longs to communicate his heart to me in the same way I long to communicate with Russell. …“Baby,” he might say, “don’t struggle with fear because I’ve got the whole world in my hands. Baby, don’t struggle with concerns about what others might think because the only one who matters has already weighed in and is absolutely crazy about you. Baby, don’t struggle to prove yourself right or influential or put-together or justified because if I am for you, then who can be against you?”… And I would lean back against his promises and rest.

I suppose I’ll have to learn as I grow too.

on Power

Last week, I was in Guatemala with 10 other people from our church and in partnership with Mothers’ Global Village. Every morning we partnered with a local school to assist the local teachers in a kids’ program.  Our team consisted of people age 6 to 60+, including 9-year old Will, who–along with his 6 year old sister–was instantly famous. The Guatemalan kids ran to them immediately and wanted to touch their hair, speak in Spanglish, and play games with these two American kids. The rest of us were chopped liver next to Will and Kate.

After a couple days in the village Will noticed that one of the Mayan boys, Joni, who had darker skin than the other kids, was being excluded from games, and the other boys were not treating him fairly. This really bothered Will. Later that night he said to his mom, “That is not right. Those kids should not be treating him that way. And I’m a gringo, and I get respect here, so I’m going to do something about that.” And he did. Will went out of his way to choose Joni first and make sure he was never excluded. Later in the week, Will visited Joni’s home and took him a special gift.

Power. Will intuitively recognized he had power in this situation, and he wielded it well. I’m inspired by this 9 year old. We all have power, and we all get to decide how to use it. May you use whatever power and influence you have today for the good of others, and may the all-powerful God give you the wisdom to know right from wrong and the courage to choose it.

Having an “I used to think” List

Gary Aronhalt recently spoke in our worship service and made a passing comment that everyone ought to have an “I used to think” list.  I have ruminated on his idea ever since hearing it. We don’t usually like to admit that we used to think or believe one way but have since changed our opinion because that means admitting we may have been wrong. However, the alternative to changing perspectives is staying stuck and not progressing or growing as people.  Do I really want to be proud of thinking the same things today that I thought when I was a pre-teen, teen, or young adult?  Do I really imagine I have it all figured out today and will perceive myself, the world, and God the same when I am 70? Most likely, many of my present suppositions will change over time, which is a healthy mark of personal and spiritual development.

So I’ve been thinking… and here is my first draft of a list of Things I Used to Think:

I used to think that whenever people changed churches, they were flaky and just church hopping. Now I think that we have friends and faith communities for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. I used to think that because I’m an ENTJ and logically minded that I would not be a very sentimental mom. Now I think that parenting has opened up a part of my heart that I did not think existed. I used to think that if a woman made more money than her husband, they had a bad marriage and probably would not make it. Now I think that people of quality are not threatened by equality. I used to think that people could not be friends with their parents. Now I know that I can. I used to think that what a person believed was about all that mattered. Now I think who we are, what we think, and how we behave are interconnected. I used to think that God was stationary, like a rock. Now I think that God is on the move and active, like a world traveler. I used to think that if I was publically humiliated or rejected by others, I would not survive. Now I know I can.

Perhaps for me there is a theme of growing a bit in the grace and freedom of my life in Christ.  I’m curious, what would you put on your list? I would love to hear!



It’s my birthday

Today is my birthday, and I’m 37.  (Actually I am posting this 2 days after I wrote it, so Friday, July 13th was my real birthday) I know some of you are thinking, “Wow, she is old!” and others of you may be thinking, “I remember when I was that young…”  Age is what it is and there is no changing it, no matter how much botox, mommy make-over work, and age-defying moisturizers are applied. Honestly, I kind of hesitated to tell you my age because I know it could discredit me one way or the other, depending on who you are and where you find yourself on the age spectrum in relation to me. The scriptures say, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you’re young [or old?!?]. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity.” 1 Timothy 4:12. Paul, who was Timothy’s mentor and the author of these words, was apparently familiar with our human tendency to measure ourselves and others by artificial expectations of maturity. He gave Timothy a different and wholly counter-cultural measuring tool: the quality of a person’s character and life legacy.

I’ve had a front row seat to some people who have not handled the changes of aging well. I also know some people who are aging well and without fear of rejection.  When I say “aging well,” I don’t mean they look 20 at 40, per se, but rather they live more alive, content, in touch with their heart, confident, and free at 40 than they did at 20. Their lives, by word, demeanor, love, faith, and integrity reveal an inner depth and stability. And I just have to say, that is really beautiful to see. Grey hair grown through the courage of risking to love and wrinkles acquired through daring to still laugh in the midst of pain trump perfect hair and flawless skin in my book any day.

My birthday prayer today is for each of us to grow in grace as we age, no matter how many years we count.


What I Used to Think….and why being a Target mom is not so bad

I used to look at moms with their children at the store and feel a little sorry for them.  I mean, wow! – the disheveled hair, the baggy clothing, the digging in their purse while cheerios, bottles, keys and wallets tumbled out… It looked like a lot of work and not a lot of fun. Who would want to do that? I used to say to people, “I want to have had kids in 20 years, but I just don’t want to have kids now.” And then came Russell.

Now that I’m living the reality of motherhood, I can testify that it certainly is a lot of work and not always a lot of fun, but I can also now recognize parenting as a precious investment.  When Tim, Russell, and I are picking up groceries, or going to Target, or traveling somewhere together, we are creating memories and forming Russell’s childhood. When he’s older, Russell will remember some of these events in detail, but even more importantly, he will have impressed on his heart that our little, crazy, and fun family is a context in which he will always be loved.

Building this childhood for Russell is a privilege and a responsibility, and it’s very often a ton of fun!  I might fall into bed exhausted at night, but at the same moment, I’ll laugh so hard I cry as I tell Tim some funny story about the time I spent with our little guy that day.  So much of our laughter is about Russell and his funny quirks. He has added infinite joy to our lives and expanded us from couple to family. I’m sure there are many days when I look just like the other disheveled moms at Target, but I’ve decided to embrace the part. Bring on the memories, let’s build a childhood!

I wonder how much of contentment in life is about embracing the part? Accepting the season in its fullness, with pros, cons, beauty, longing, and frustration.  Living through the season honestly, vulnerably, and gratefully.  So many pieces of life are completely outside of our control, but we do get to decide if we will fight reality or roll with it. We get to choose to embrace the single life, the married life, the life with no kids, the life with kids, the life retired, the life as growing older. Every season has its pros and cons. May God grant you the grace to find and relish the beauty in your season of life today.

Slow down, little train!

Giving great gifts is underrated. If you’ve ever given a really good gift and seen the recipient weep, then you know what I’m talking about. Last Sunday was Father’s Day, and I gave Tim a great gift, and he received it with great joy. Many of you know that we named our son after Tim’s grandfather, Russell Potter. So for Tim’s first Father’s Day as a dad, I created a framed collage of photographs of Tim as a baby with his grandfather (the first Russell Potter) and then some photos of Tim with our son, the second Russell Potter.  Tim was overwhelmed upon seeing the gift. He got all welled up, and then I got all welled up and he just kept looking at all the pictures with so much love in his eyes. I was so happy I could not stop smiling and crying. It feels wonderful to give a great gift, to catch someone off guard with surprise, to overwhelm them with a little thoughtfulness, to show in some small way that you love them. And even though it may be true that it is better to give than to receive, the reality is you need someone to receive the gift if it’s going to bring you or them any joy at all.

Gifts from God are all around me every day, and lately I have felt a particular desire to soak them in – to notice them as gifts – and to receive them. Author Shauna Niequist said on her blog recently, “One of the biggest challenges in modern life is sensing God’s presence in the midst of the crush and swirl of daily life.”Birds singing, swamp coolers cooling, ducks in the Platte river swimming, the city looking back at me from the view on my roof, family and friends laughing together – these are all some of the countless little things I usually cruise right by while driving my little efficiency train. But how sad God must feel to offer these gifts only to have them ignored. Receiving a gift is part of blessing the giver.

May you notice and receive God’s gifts today,


Dear Pappa-Roo

This Sunday is Fathers day and for the first time in my life I have two fathers to celebrate – you and Tim.  Since I’m raising a boy now I have been thinking a bit about what makes a great man and what it is I hope to instill in Russell as he grows up. I am grateful for the man you are and the father you have been.

I know that we all have regrets in life and that one of yours is that you spent the first 40 years of your life running from God. But I want you to know how grateful and glad I am, as your daughter that you have spent the last 30+ years strongly seeking after God’s heart.  I respect the courage that it took for you to humble yourself at age 40 and do a complete 180-degree life change.  I admire the strength that it took for you to stop drinking and change so many of your values, priorities and habits.  I have a foundation of love and hilarious memories today because of the sacrifices you made for our family.  I remember that time when I was in 5th grade and you turned down that promotion in Chicago because it would’ve meant too much time away from your family.  Very few men choose to prioritize their families in the working years of life, and it is one of the qualities I so appreciate about you.  My life is full of laughter today because you taught me how to laugh hard, be silly and keep on finding ways to smile even in the storms.  Thanks for all those “Fury” rides, family vacations, “lucky” prayers before bed, and for adjusting and learning to pack your own lunch when mom went back to work.  Thanks even more for making your marriage with mom a priority and for showing me what a loving relationship really looks like.  Thanks for being strong enough to admit when you were wrong.  Thanks for modeling the love of Christ and a life of service. Thanks for showing me the Father-heart of God. Thanks for being my dad.

Love you,


Real estate, White flags, and Jonah

In 2005, Tim and I bought a big ole tri-plex that in so many ways we really have no business owning. At the time, banks were giving mortgages to anyone who was breathing, with little to no money down and interest free, if you agreed to the “adjustable” terms of that loan.  We were arrogant and stupid enough to agree to these terms. I remember when we closed on the place, one of the guys at the table said, “Just wait, that place is going to be worth a million dollars in a couple years because this neighborhood is so hot.”  When we drove away from that closing, I wanted to roll down my window and start waving to everyone, blowing a few kisses, because I felt so smart, soon-to-be rich, and powerful for scoring such a great deal.  I’ve heard a phrase that says, “Experience humility today before you experience humiliation tomorrow,” and wow, did we get humbled!  A couple years later, the market changed, and we had a $700/month increase in the mortgage, and we could no longer re-finance it! I was scared and overwhelmed. Our options for help were limited. I turned to God.

I had prayed about our decision when we first bought the house.  But, I really prayed when the bottom started to fall out!  I prayed more fervently, more honestly, and more desperately than I had during the early decision-making process. 

I think my story is fairly common. We usually pray the most when things are the worst, or when we have nothing else to do, or when we have no where else to turn.  

This Sunday, we are continuing our new series called “White Flag: a study of the book of Jonah.” White flags are the universal symbol for surrender. This week we’ll look at Jonah’s prayer of surrender from inside the belly of the great fish – when he had no where else to turn and nothing else to do.  It’s a whale of a tale, and I hope to see you there.

Risk & Opportunity

A couple years ago, I co-opened a business called Sipping n’ Painting; my partners and I recently signed a lease to expand to a second location.  Several people in my life have warned me about “managing my risk” in opening the second studio.  I consider this wise counsel, and I also consider it only one side of a double- sided coin.  What about “managing the opportunity?”  or better yet, “stewarding the opportunity?”  Last year, Sipping n’ Painting received a small business grant, and I think it is just as important to steward the opportunity of that grant and the gift of current momentum in this business as it is to manage the risk involved in expanding.

The same is true for you. God has given you gifts.  You can lead, or teach, or pioneer new things, or host, or serve, or sing, or play, or innovate, or create, or come alongside.  Are you stewarding that gift? Are you stewarding the opportunities in your life today? Jesus told a story where he cautioned his followers not to “bury [their] talents” in the ground.  We can bury our talents (or bury the talents of others) when we become so risk-adverse, so consumed with “managing the risks,” that we lose sight of the opportunity we need to steward. 

Has the Spirit led you to venture into risky territory? What steps can you take today to wisely manage the associated risk AND courageously invest your talents?