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Monday, February 1, 2016

Enchanted

Spring is everything transformed. Dazzling change of season springing us from dreary and bare into something happy and new.  Empty sticks climax into trees full bloom. The dark greyness of winter surrenders into bright green lush. And baby birds are everywhere. Making chirping noises and fluttering as they spread their wings and learn to fly.

Many have asked. Where do you go from here? Find a new church, start a home church, not go to church, etc.? And the answer is both simple and complicated, but not something I will answer fully in this moment. See, I am absolutely *enchanted* with the God of the universe. The Creator of sunflowers, butterflies, Chai lattes, newborn babies, stunning sunsets and Siamese kittens. God pursued me for years in the most amazing ways. Even when I resisted. I knew full well that embracing Him would take everything in my life and turn it upside down. My love story with God is intricately close to my heart. I was twenty-nine years old when I finally understood the magnitude of such suffering and sacrifice and it has been a decade of falling deeper in love. It has had its ups and downs. But let me be clear. I am strong enough in my faith to not let anything -or anyone- diminish or distort the beauty of grace.

Not any church.
Not any religion.
Not any pastor.

It is beautiful to be part of a church that is enchanted by giving glory to God.
I want that. For me. For my family.

But I remember feeling like the bird who flew into the sliding glass door.
Still recovering from what I didn't see coming. Stunned by the illusion of something that appears reflective and transparent but shows itself to be obtuse and dense to any hint of criticism.  An impermeable wall separating the word of God from its rightful application. I'm weary from hearing big words swirl around in my mind only to crash headfirst into conflict if I dare take it to heart. Or hands. Or feet.  So I move forward motivated by the experience and driven to live grace as vividly as the change of seasons.





















Monday, August 18, 2014

Life Interrupted.

It is a privilege to share with you my thoughts on Jen Hatmaker's book, Interrupted. As a writer, responding to book reviews with positive, constructive thoughts and offering polite recommendations to buy a worthwhile read is a pleasure to do. Except when its not. When its more of a warning to proceed ahead with caution.

Don't get me wrong. I loved this book. But I am going to tell you why reading it was harder than 29 hours of childbirth without an epidural. Why I clench my jaw thinking about the moment I opened it and began a journey to where there was no going back.

At first, you might think its totally cool that someone else out there feels this way. Turns out you really aren't alone. Comforting to know some chick in Texas with a huge smile and tons of kids has put on paper what's been stirring in your soul. Jen Hatmaker describes her spiritual state of longing as a "dryness" whereas I felt more of a "restlessness." You might think a spiritual crisis is about to happen, but in the restless angst or barren dryness you slowly discover God is actively at work, shifting your focus away from bland religiosity while vividly making your heart yearn for ways to love people who are suffering, alone, hurting, hungry, neglected, shunned and marginalized. In your neighborhood and across the world. Reading this book helped me to understand that being "interrupted" is not a rally to force everyone into joining one individual's "cause" to do good, instead it is a beautiful obedience mandated repeatedly as the Bible's clear and consistent message to followers of Christ. "Love one another as I have loved you" isn't turning a blind eye to people who are in desperate situations. Ignoring the beggar that we see but want to ignore -doesn't end well. Unless we get ourselves involved in actively serving and loving others passionately as Jesus does, we are missing a huge part of living out the fullness of the Gospel. We miss grasping -to the best of our human ability- the immense depth of love and mercy Jesus has for us.

Not everyone will understand. Not everyone will be eager to embrace the changes that happen in order to interrupt life and church as we know it. To put those the world sees as being in last place -first. To embrace the least of these and glorify God by loving them as VIPs, giving compassion to their suffering, dignity to their hurting, and nourishment to their withering. It is reaching out to those who struggle with poverty, starvation, addiction, loneliness, depression, lack of shelter, disease, etc. and extending love and grace without condition or expectation. It is important to know however, that the reality and magnitude of "interrupting" the status quo hasn't caught on in all the places it needs to yet. And if you don't happen to be a best-selling author and pastor's wife -and this book happens to you- prepare yourself for the possible uncertainty that might come as a result.

Had I never read Interrupted- my life would be easier right now. My friend count and popularity on Facebook -much higher. But as the past few weeks have been challenging, they have been life-changing as well.  By the way, none of you Hatmaker book virgins should dare read anything by this lady unless of course, you want to risk disrupting Sunday mornings, sabotaging some relationships, aching for purpose, getting rid of stuff, and ending up flat on your face- begging God for direction. I'm intentionally waiting until the warranty on the BMW is over before I dare read her other killjoy, Seven.

Much like everything God uses in the Bible to move the ball forward, this book doesn't lend itself to idle people.  Instead of sitting on the sidelines handing out Gatorade, you read this book and you're forced into the game. One with competitive teams and sadly, man-made rules. But press on. Messed up, imperfect, humbled souls throughout Scripture -who didn't look or act the part- made the cut when it came to God being glorified in extraordinary ways. Jesus entered the world as a crying, pooping, babbling infant. Which just means all of us are perfect candidates for the job of being His vessel for change, insignificant as we all are. Figuring out what that looks like is hard. Really hard. Talking about it is hard. Yet dreaming about something better inevitably happens when you read Interrupted.

Here are some quotes to give you an idea what I'm talking about.

"Until we are all compelled and contributing, we're settling for an anemic faith and a church that robs Christ followers of their vitality and repels the rest of the world." - Jen Hatmaker

Ouch.

"If you truly love ME you will feed my sheep. My people are crumbling and dying and starving and you're blessing blessed people and serving the saved." - Jen Hatmaker

No holdin' back.

"All of a sudden I saw my exact reflection in Peter: devoted but selfish, committed but misguided. It won't suffice to claim good intentions. Not with God screaming, begging, pleading, urging us to feed the poor and orphaned, to care for the last and least in nearly every book of the Bible. It will not be enough one day to stand before Jesus and say, "Oh? Were you serious about all that?" - Jen Hatmaker

So if you dare read this be forewarned. Not everyone will understand your shift in perspective. Your character may be attacked. Gossip might abound. You might even be forced out of fellowship. And undoubtedly you can bet the word "divisive' will rear its ugly head. But don't think for a moment it is not worth reading. Don't shy away just because its hard. The tension of understanding just how important serving is to grasping the fullness of the Gospel brings about positive change. So many amazing people whose compassion for the least of these and dedication to staying humbled servants inspire me in remarkable ways.

Let me share with you Interrupted's back cover excerpt.

"Have you ever felt like you are completely missing the point? Are you one of the millions who crave a new direction in the church, fed up with religious games, empty promises, and cultural Christianity? You are not alone. You are not crazy. Maybe Jesus is ready to interrupt your life."

The effects of being Interrupted may not be visible in the place where you are right now.  Perhaps change might not look the way you hope and expect it to. This book is one of many that begs and pleads with our beloved church to examine itself. Many pastors, like Francis Chan, are showing the fruits of shifting gears towards a focus that minimizes men and uplifts a merciful God.
Mega-size is not the prize. An abundance of mercy and compassion is.
Don't get me wrong-please don't misunderstand.
I LOVE the church.
I LOVE the people within church.
I LOVE those who serve His church. There are some awesome and amazing pastors out there!
We are all on this wonderful journey together. Regardless of where we end up on Sunday mornings -in a living room, school auditorium, movie theater, private building, or in secret hiding. I trust completely in God's plan for His bride.

Pray we all experience the freedom to have honest and forthright conversations sparked by books like Interrupted, Radical, Crazy Love, etc. without the fear of being called out as "divisive" or alienated from church community. And if you don't want to be on the fringe alone, buy lots of copies of Interrupted and spread the love! Go ahead. Wreck your friends. Interrupt calm spirituality with a kick in the pants. Read this and find yourself less concerned about vindicating your name, preserving popularity, or staying comfortable. Encounter the beautiful freedom of glorifying God and boldly embracing those in need- the people Jesus passionately reached out to and repeatedly calls us to love and serve.

-Julie 

Oh yeah. Brandon Hatmaker mentions this incredible verse,
which I've pondered on SO much lately:
"Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy, not sacrifice." - Jesus (Matthew 9:13)




Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Happy Hour at The Milk Bar


Let’s talk lactation. Just unbutton the topic… and put it all out there. I’ve got to tell you…it is an issue that evokes a squirt or two of passion out of people. I had no idea the kind of rallying both sides of the booby issue were capable of. There are people totally for it and people passionately against. And both sides fiercely latch onto their positions, digging in their high heels to debate this tender topic.

Honestly, until I reached the tender age of twenty-seven, the idea of using my boobs for anything other than attracting adult members of the opposite sex, never really occurred to me. I assumed nipples had no other value than simply being a reliable temperature gauge. I distinctly remember having dinner with a group of college friends at a TGI Friday’s back when everyone I knew, myself included, was young, single and flirtatious. One of the attractive guys casually pointed out an exhausted looking woman nearby, who was obviously wearing a starving five-year-old child underneath a small fabric camping tent. Junior was screaming aloud his intentions of “MILKEEEEEEEEEE” from beneath the wrap, his legs kicking wildly as she fumbled for the trap door on her ginormous bra. The rest of us painfully avoided looking anywhere near that table. I remember the guy saying something like, “Seeing that….just made me lose my appetite.” The whole table laughed in response.

I paid no mind to the lady or to the comment, dismissing it all as something that didn’t really apply to me. If I had a form to fill out…under breastfeeding I would’ve written N/A. Not applicable. Or maybe, no thanks. Or…perhaps, not yet. I smiled at the thought. Yeah. That was me. I didn’t notice and I really didn’t care. If people did it – great. I didn’t have a problem looking away. If not, no big deal. Bottles worked. I was Switzerland. Calling myself neutral. Either way I was content.

Fast forward. I meet a hot sexy guy, steal his heart…and then his last name. Pretty soon it’s inevitable that everyone seems to be begging the question. And they start asking in a shrill, intruding voice, “When you going to have a baby?” Everyone asks. Then I start asking myself. And of course, hot sexy guy who is madly in love with me, is game with whatever. So, we throw caution to the wind…and pretty soon a plus sign appears on the pee stick. Sick thing is I still have it. How’s that for being sentimental? Now I have no idea what I’m in for… so I search my memory for friends and relatives who have born offspring that I have had contact with in the last few years. And a repressed memory faintly appears. Picture an overjoyed, but tired looking mom holding a newborn with an open mouth. Then I see the nightmare nipples…ones that are dark and ominous and frighteningly large. It’s like seeing someone with a purple glass eye or something weird like that. And I am suddenly freaked out that my perky and proportionate breasts will morph into something hideous and grotesque. But then I think about how much I already am in love with this little person who I’ve never met. How I would do anything for this little heaven-sent gift, even if it means losing one of my greatest assets.

So my boobs got bigger. And then even bigger than I could have possibly ever hoped for. I bought a huge bra with trap doors and nursing pads to stick inside. FYI: those little circle pads can double for maxi’s if you line a few up and are seriously in a pinch after getting an unwelcome surprise. Luckily for me, there was no freak-show nipple changing. The belly button thing didn’t happen either. Whew! What a relief. Then… the much anticipated baby pushed its way out into the world to be adored by all. And I decided to give breastfeeding a try. And I will admit that the idea of bottle washing and mixing of formula sounded like too much added work. How’s laziness for a motivating factor? See I had already increased the amount of laundry I was doing- tenfold. So I was in the market for efficiency.

In the hospital, a lactation specialist came by for a visit and a consultation. I tell myself half listening, it can’t be that hard. Plus, I have a very high opinion of my abilities when it comes to overachieving at things. Seriously… boob in mouth, right? Not exactly. Turns out there are special ways to hold the baby. Ways to hold the boob. Ways to get the baby to open its mouth. Ways to tickle the cheek. Ways to massage the milk out. And then there are remedies for getting what I can only describe as “hotboob”, a painful reminder that when it fills up…get that milk out…even when you’re so tired, you forget who you are. They would fill up like water balloons, and as soon as my ears intercepted a cry, I would be leaking like a spigot. It really didn’t matter what kind of cry. It could be a TV commercial, a dog whimper, pretty much any kind of high-pitched cry and I was ready to serve drinks. I wanted the menu to sound impressive, but I only served one beverage, what I named the “milktini”. A drink that was created on the foundation of me eating everything organic and nothing overly spicy. The ultimate, gassy, BF killjoy turned out to be the evil vegetable known in grocery circles as broccoli. And my patron left me the biggest tips imaginable. I knew I had done my job well by the amount of Pampers we were flying thru.

If you think about it, thousands of trees have been utilized in the construction of books on this very subject. Knowledge is power, right? Maybe. In my experience…I got impatient and irritated at the rigid concepts being hurled at me. So I did what I do when I convince myself that stressing out is not the answer. I tossed expert opinions aside along with everything I felt was not working, and just decided to figure it out. Just me…and of course, the most adorable little milksucker I have ever seen. And every three hours we figured it out together. All it took was something I had lots to give. Patience and time. It’s the byproduct of leaving the fast-paced world of impatient strangers to slow down and appreciate what matters most in life. And in that start to parenting, I got to know every dimple, every expression, and every sound that accompanied what had once been “not applicable”. I had become the deliriously in love bartender and waitress that looked forward every day for a year and two months… to happy hour at the milk bar.

Cheers,
JB

Monday, July 7, 2014

Keep Calm and Don't Breathe the Gas

Cool, calm, and collected. I used to be all of those things.
Until the day I had children. Swollen belly enduring two days of labor, middle of the night c-section, and twenty-two hours on an airplane across the world- these pains of mothering have changed me.
The responsibility for their constant well being has consumed me.
I've been overtaken by this lifelong investment, no longer emotionally detached. You could say I've been wrecked by my dive into parenthood- and stuck on the verge of panic ever since.

Way back before kids- I used to work nights at a Level 1 Trauma Center. Twelve hour shifts caring for people in a very busy emergency room. Nothing unnerved me back then. In the five years I did that job- I stayed even-tempered and thought clearly. Wasn't phased in the least by the insanity of life and death chaos.

Quite the contrast to how I now handle situations of uncertainty pertaining to my five beautiful offspring. I take the challenge of getting these little people safely into adulthood as a pretty big deal. But I'm also constantly reminded to keep the balance of letting them live fully and experience cool stuff without senselessly creating undertones of worry and anxiety.

I should actually be embarrassed to share how I reacted to something like this, but oh well.
This was my morning.

I'm upstairs making my bed. Kids are downstairs in the family room watching the most annoying show ever made by Disney channel.  The song drives me crazy and every kid on the planet has it memorized. Being a smartypants, I've made up alternative lyrics in my head, which I would never share with anyone under 18.

So I'm putting pillows on, wondering if I really want to start laundry next or postpone to another day. I hear a little voice coming up the stairs, beckoning me by my three letter word. First thing I do is decifer the tone. Declarative is quick and means somebody's not sharing and it goes like this- MOM!
But this was different. This tone was questioning and it was warily preceeded by an "um".
Never a good sign.

"Um...mom?"
"Yes?"
"Your lamp fell."
I breathe in and decide laundry can wait. Might be time for me to drink caffeine instead. Two lamps on either side of the couch are in constant peril with little ones that can't resist jumping on the love seat when I'm upstairs out of sight. The lamps are like much of the furniture in the room - twice as old as the kids. Waiting for everyone to reach puberty before I splurge on any idea of having new decor.  The lamps have survived tipping over more than I can count. No big deal. I smile as I head down the stairs, until I hear the rest of it.
"Oh, and....the light bulb kinda broke all over the floor."

I freeze for an instant as the words travel from my ears to my mind. I think shots and stitches if they step on glass as worst-case scenario. I race down the rest of the stairs and into the family room.

"Everybody upstairs- QUICKLY! Let's go!" When danger is present, I use my drill-sergeant voice.

They sense the urgency and four sets of feet pound their way towards the second floor. I hear them giggling, pulling out toys to play with, and shutting the bedroom door as I brace to assess the damage. I notice the lampshade knocked off its axis, barely hanging from the edge of the side table. My fear gets validated as I see shards of thin white bulb speckling the carpet like fragments of French manicured fake fingernails. I hope for any indication that it was a rounded silhouette. But no. It was one of those. The dangerous kind.

I grab my phone to google a solution. My mind races to find buzzwords to describe the catastrophe.
-CURLY LIGHT BULB POISON-
Article after article comes up.

"The worst toxin in your home exists in your lamp."
"Toxic mercury gas leaks into air from broken light bulb"
"Liver damage and delay caused by kids mercury exposure"

All the years I've exclusively bought organic milk and washed their hair with non-paraben shampoo to avoid little bodies having contact with toxins have become instantly undone with the shattering of one light bulb. I have no clue how much "poison gas" from this is actually swirling around the room.  I throw open the patio doors and turn on the fan full blast.

I decide to call my only hope for comfort. My husband answers and I express how distraught I am over the fact that deciding to use energy-efficient light bulbs has backfired into a dangerous situation and now our kids have been exposed to poison mercury gas. His response was not nearly as concerned as I had hoped. Sometimes having someone panic with you when you think you failed as a parent is validating.

"Oh, one of those broke in my hand once.  Don't worry honey, it should be fine."

His soothing voice and calmness makes me feel instantly less freaked out. I express my adoration of a man so amazing that I love him like crazy. We hang up and I head back to the trusted source of all knowledge- the internet- to make sure I clean everything up the right way. The Environmental Protection Agency gives tips on how to dispose of broken CFL bulbs and I also found suggestions on how to clear the air.  FYI: keep children away from the area for fifteen minutes, turn on fans, open doors, make sure to pick up the broken pieces with duct tape prior to vacuuming.

So now you know. I panic and freak out when it comes to my precious kids.  It is the reason I cut up grapes and hot dogs into pieces that mice could swallow. The reason I am constantly counting them when we are out and about. I could go on and on. Parenthood is riding a roller coaster every single day. Exhilarating and heart-pounding, filled with dips and turns, ups and downs. Dangerous light bulbs and crazy kids shows. And while being a mom might not always be easy on the nerves- man is it the best thing ever. So take a deep breath and enjoy every second of summer!

~JB

Listening to: No Strings by Mayer Hawthorne & Maps by Maroon 5
Reading: Charis: God's Scandalous Grace For Us by Preston Sprinkle

More blog posts coming soon.















Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tension



Check out  this blog post  by Rachel Evans Held. Thought it was an interesting read. Pray for tension to bring about god-honoring change and reconciliation.

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." Proverbs 31:8-9

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Looking Up

Yesterday I saw them- they both waved in unison. I smiled and reciprocated. Months had passed since I had first seen them walking along, side by side. Time had rotated us into a whole different season. Red and orange leaves had scattered into fall. Bare limbs braved the blistery winter, and now spring was coming into full bloom.

The day our lives had intersected had been the perfect autumn day. Crisp, breezy, deep blue sky. The leaves on the trees lining the street were strikingly vibrant shades of crimson red, golden yellow and bright orange. And yet, I drove down the street that I do every day- barely noticing. I was running late. Moms who drive their kids to school are painfully aware of the exact time needed show up in order to leave the parking lot during daylight hours. Nobody cares that you had a rough afternoon or got a late start out the door. Half of the moms lined up are statistically either on their period or gearing up for it. Its like a PMS parade, except for the few dads that brave the dangerous parking lot at midday. If you don't get a prime spot with easy access out- you stay stuck parked in a line that takes hours to move. Its like reliving moments of childbirth five days a week.

On that day I was trying to rush from one destination to another, with multiple small children talking nonstop in the background. I was pushing thru the stresses of busy motherhood- getting things done and checked off my to-do list. Or so I thought.

It ended up being the kind of day that caught me by surprise and held me captive until I relented into seeing its magnificence. And it started when I saw a man and a woman walking side by side on the sidewalk. Probably nearing retirement, they were out for a leisurely afternoon stroll. Cars were shuffling into the parking lot by the second. I was within twenty feet of my desired spot when I saw this man suddenly stop. He turned to face the woman. She took a step backward into the grass of a yard.  He quickly walked around behind her as she fell into him. It almost felt like it happened in slow motion.

The cranky carpool-frenzied voice in my head told me to keep on driving. I was almost there. I could get a good spot. Besides my little girl would be waiting. I didn't want her to wonder where I was. Somebody else would help out. Somebody that had a clue on what to do.

And then I apparently did what I do when I am in a situation that catches me off guard.
I panic. And internalize it.
And in an instant, the thought seeped in. What if that was my mom.

I pulled up to the house they were in front of, rolled down the window and called out to the man. He was leaning over the woman now lying flat on her back. I had no idea what was happening, so I just called out, "Hey, is she alright? Do you need me to call 911?" And he told me that he needed me to stay with her while he ran to their home nearby to get her medication. SO... I roll down the windows a bit, lock my kids in the car (I'm overprotective like that), and sat on the front yard of a house in front of a school next to a lady having a seizure. I held her hands and spoke gently to her as she stared up at the sky.  Another stay-at-home-mom -who had an epileptic husband- also stopped.  The two of us sat on either side of the woman, reassuring her as her body began to relax, as we waited for her husband to return.

And so I looked up that day. At the most beautiful sky ever. And I noticed the stunning beauty of the trees. I took deep breaths of cold air that filled my lungs in the midst of uncertainty. I interrupted my busy day with a moment to just sit and hold the hand of a lady I didn't know. To calm her with nothing more than my presence and my voice. I was fortunate enough to meet a very sweet and humble woman last fall, who has lived a lifetime with epilepsy. Who now sees my car and makes a point to wave to me.

So I'm thinking about this today. How can we be more intentional connecting with people?
I would love to hear your ideas-

JB


Listening to this amazing song you should most definitely download from iTunes:
Am I Wrong by Nico & Vinz



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Addicted to Love

In empty parking lots at dusk many people hide out in their cars, waiting for deliverance. Anxious for another fix. The location changes day to day, but even the hassle of it isn't much of a deterrent. All across town, vacant pavement becomes a lucrative hideout for hushed transactions. Where you might be known by a fictitious alias- or perhaps a pen name- like the former Mayor of WVC. When you want something you know you probably shouldn't have, you figure out how to make it happen. You make excuses, you sneak away, you ask around, and always know exactly how much it will cost you.

I resisted for a long time. I knew that a lot of people shared this hard-to-break habit, but certainly not to this extent. Many days I try to ignore what I crave or where to get it. Often I convince myself it is not something I need. Just a want. And on occasion, I find myself wishing I had never known how mind-blowing this little indulgence would turn out to be.

And then some days I just give in. I hold crinkled bills in my sweaty palm and show up wearing no makeup, ponytail hair and faded sweatpants. I disregard any feelings of shame or guilt or second-thoughts and just live in the moment. Because I can. Because I like it. I crave it. Maybe I even convince myself I somehow earned it. Deserve it. Need to have it. Blah. Blah. Blah.
Justification for gratification. Simple as that.

And sometimes it doesn't feel wrong at all. It feels like a hug. Like the unconditional love you fully appreciate once you know exactly who your real friends are. And that's where I'm at.
It's comforting happiness.
All topped with homemade whipped cream.

So now you know exactly where to find me sometimes.
After dark. In the moonlight. In a random parking lot. Around Salt Lake City. Near a painted hippy truck. Delighting over pure Belgian goodness.

-JB