Lisa G. OBrien

contemplative musings on transformational mysteries

We Belong Here!

Paris is Spring. Texas in Winter. Colorado in Autumn. These all make sense and call us to a desire for experience, don't they?

Chicago in Winter. Hmmm? It just doesn't hold the same desire.

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And yet, Chicago in Winter was the setting for our most recent Destiny Project. A mansion in a remote part of western Illinois created the backdrop for an epic drama to unfold in the hearts of women. It was here that 16 strangers entered the room, greeted by a team of 6, and quickly found a place of belonging.

The kitchen was filled with the aroma of soup warming in crock pots and the sound of female voices filled with anxious anticipation. The evening session began with a roaring fire that filled the space with a warm invitation to be together. Introductions spilled out of nervous hearts and deep connections began to form in the discomfort.

This group quickly created an environment that was open and genuine. There was a mysterious absence of that ever present beast of comparison and competition that seems to find it's way into feminine spaces. This group also quickly created a space that was free of judgement and invited women to bring what they had in a spontaneous way.

Women surprisingly began presenting benevolent and lavish gifts on each other. There were handmade scarves, delicious baked goods, gemstones, hand crafted gifts, hearts filled with scripture, and more that the women had brought each other. It was almost as if a memo had gone out without the team's awareness!

We were all swept into a sacred summons to receive deeply and generously, from each other and God, during our time together. This was the perfect platform from which to dive into our dreams and explore. The group seemed to be armed with ferocious courage as they navigated the land of their dreams with each other.

An interesting dynamic unique to this particular group of women was the experience of sisterhood. The group actually contained two sets of sisters and it interestingly granted permission for the group to collectively step into a unique climate of sisterhood. This climate empowered the group to see and be seen by each other in astounding and miraculous ways.

Each session progressively allowed the women to walk through the jello like experience of resistance into a free and clear space of understanding and verbalizing their unique identities. Our time together seemed to mysteriously create space for new life and we were watching it slowly begin to emerge from the hearts of each woman. It was as if, in our shared experience, we created a cocoon where these brave women entered into the gooey discomfort of transformation in the process of becoming truer versions of themselves.

The tools of  Destiny Project created a foundation for these women to stand confidently in their unique identities and understand in deeper ways how to live that out in their real lives. The brilliance and power of this particular group seemed to light a raging fire across the cold landscape of wintery Illinois that burns into eternity. As our time together moved closer to the end, there was a collective sigh at the thought of leaving this sacred space.

Our time together concluded with each voice declaring who they are and what they bring to the world. Voices that loudly reclaimed connection to the sacred beauty of true community, motherhood, leadership, and even the darker sides of themselves. Voices that expressed deep healing, new life, bold actions, a lighter load, and new insight.

If this particular group had a voice, I think they would sum up their Destiny Project experience with this phrase....

"We are welcome here! What we have to bring to the world is important! We belong here!"

Confessions of an Anti-Valentine's Day Woman

That's right. I'm finding the courage today to put my opposition out there. I am a woman, loved well by God and family, who really does not like Valentine's Day.

Now, hear me on this....I LOVE love! I love romantic gestures. I adore those beautiful moments where love is expressed in tangible ways.

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I suppose my opposition began when I watched very unloving people give lavish gifts on Valentines Day. I noticed the disingenuous nature of empty and obligatory expressions of love. It fell so flat to what my heart could feel was an honest expression of true love.

Early on in my dating relationship with my husband (who happens to be a hopeless romantic), I expressed my opposition to a commercialized reminder to express his love to me one day a year. His disappointment and confusion was obvious. It led, however, to great conversations around how we express genuine love in spontaneous and thoughtful ways on the 364 other days of the year.

I have just always had this deep craving for expressions of love to be done in unique, individual, and spontaneous ways. Nothing fills my heart more than fresh flowers for no reasons other than someone was thinking about me...on a random Wednesday. I enjoy a romantic dinner at home or in a restaurant with just me and my love. I adore the simple and sweet expression of love in the offering of an organic dark chocolate bar any day of the week....for no reason. I adore thoughtful, sentimental, and heartfelt gifts throughout the year that are simple reminders of love.

I enjoy the idea of having a day that celebrates love. I respect men and women who go out of their way to find and create individual and personal ways to express their love. I adore the hearts that find life in sentimentality and romance.

I think the thing I really crave is a world that celebrates love everyday. I'm curious about a world that integrates the idea of Valentine's Day into a regular way of living. I'm hungry for true expressions of heartfelt love 365 days a year! 

I like the idea of adopting a lifestyle of LOVE. A lifestyle where we find big and small ways to express our love everyday. A lifestyle that empowers us to be as loving to those we know as we are to those we don't know.

I have a real hunger to live a life of love. A life that impacts others in a way that communicates their value and worth. I desire to live in such a loving way that somehow my presence mysteriously communicates love to those I am around. 

I wonder today, whatever your stance on Valentine's Day, how you express love. How does your life communicate love? 

Deep Craving

Do you ever just get a real craving for something? You know that kind of unquenchable hunger that will not be satisfied with anything but the thing you're craving. Yeah, I have one of those right now! My craving? The sun.

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I just want to see it high in the sky for hours. I want to feel the warmth of it on my skin. I want to enjoy the heat it provides.

Living much farther north on the globe is giving me a fresh experience of separation from my beloved friend, the sun.  The loss is visceral and its starting to get grim. I almost feel I'm being swallowed by the darkness.

It's got me thinking about how much levity sunshine provides. It makes going outside enjoyable, it brightens our mood, it makes hope somehow easier to find, and it fuels us with energy. Sunshine seems to somehow invite ease.

While darkness, day after day for months, has the exact opposite effect. It makes everything feel heavy, slow, hopeless, burdensome, and difficult. Darkness finds a way to suck the life right out of us, completely unaware.

Our physical bodies have such strong reactions to changes in light and climate. I'm curious how true that is of our souls as well. How do our souls respond to light and darkness?

Our souls experience both light and darkness along our journey. They often time crave for light in the middle of very dark seasons. If we listen really carefully, we can hear our souls cry out for just a little peak at the sun.

I know the clarity of my soul being in the full light of grace. Everything there is light, free, smooth, and effortless. My soul is able to find such true and honest expression of itself in ways that impact the world, completely unaware.

My soul also knows, all too well, the darkness that seems to hunt it so fervently. The dark places feel like hope cannot be found, if indeed, it ever existed. I can lose the plot of my life and forget my name in a swift breath.

As my body craves sunlight in a ravenous way, I realize that if I listen carefully so does my soul. My soul longs to find that spot in the light where things are innocent, uncomplicated, and clear. It desires a carefree moment of free spirited spinning in the light of grace.

What about you? What is your soul craving? What need is that craving trying to meet?

Just a Word

Words and their meaning are such an important part of my existence. I think language carries with it such precise ability to penetrate the heart. Words can shape a life, guide a soul, heal a heart, and so much more.

As a spiritual director, I tune in very directly to the language people use to describe their spiritual journey, their relationship with God, and their framework of thinking around their soul. I have a confession. There are many words that we use that do not clarify, but confuse.

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There is a word that I have heard several times over recently. Whether through clients, friends, or others, I have encountered the word abundant this week. Mostly, it seems, in reference to a scripture found in John 10:10 that says:

I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.

The word abundant seems to imply a bountiful supply. It’s got me curious about a bountiful supply of life and what that looks like. How does that present itself in my life?

Honestly, there are seasons where I find myself with a bountiful supply of confusion, frustration, fear, or loneliness. That doesn’t really match up with my ideal of the “bountiful supply” I’d like to show up in my life. How about you?

One thing I know about the journey of our souls is that it always contains an element of mystery. The arena of the soul is intangible. Things just don’t always add up and make sense to our rational brain.

It’s got me curious if the abundant life God promised is less about our expectations, ideals, and desires and more about life by His definition. What if the bountiful supply He was describing is about our learning, our growing, and our giving? What if that word holds a different meaning?

What if a bountiful supply of confusion brings more peace into our lives? What if a bountiful supply of relational tension brings more grace into our lives? What if a bountiful supply of pain brings more forgiveness into our lives?

God does not operate the same way we do. The idea that He is a big scary guy in the sky who expects us to act in certain ways is off center. He doesn’t put demands on us, ask us to perform, and then throws us a bone for our trouble.

He’s actually a tender hearted father who cares deeply for the growth, maturing, and development of His kids. He wants to see us grow up into the people we were created to be and to change the world. Sometimes, as with our own kids, that growth comes with some bumps and brusises.

Life, by God’s definition, is one filled with love, grace, forgiveness, and kindness. Life, by His definition, is completely about relationship. It is about relationships that give life, fuel growth, and generate transformation.

What if the abundant life God promised us is about a bountiful supply of transformation delivered in mysterious packages? Packages like:

Marital conflict
confusion
Health issues
Fear
Infertility
Anger
Job Loss
Insecurity
Addiction

What if a bountiful supply of those things leads us to the kind of life God dreams for us? A life filled with love and grace and fueled by life giving relationships. It’s funny what you can find in a word when you just get curious!

 

Hunker Down

It's winter and in my corner of the world that means very short, cold, and wet days and lots of them. Honestly, this Austin girl desires sunshine and a warm ramble through nature. I realize that it's going to be a while before that happens.

Today, I craved adventure and started to research some fun exploration for my family and myself. I came to find that everything is closed for the winter. Literally! Every interesting castle and estate I looked at is closed for two more months.

I had a brief moment of insanity and screamed, "I DON"T WANT TO HUNKER DOWN FOR WINTER! I WANT TO SEE SOME SUNSHINE! I WANT TO EXPLORE!" I felt much better as the insanity left me and then I had an intense moment of curiosity. What does the phrase "hunker down" really mean?

I immediately went to explore the words and phrase. I mean, if I can't explore nature then the second best thing is words, right? I was struck by the meaning:

To sit down on your heels

To make yourself comfortable in a place or situation, or to prepare to stay in a place or position, for a long time, usually in order to achieve something or for protection.

Words, once again, mysteriously move me to consider something from a different perspective. This phrase has two meanings that both carry very different energy and attitude. Think about it.

If I choose the hunker down perspective of sitting on my heels, it creates a limited experience. Sitting on my heels doesn't allow much movement, flexibility, or variety. It also means that in a very short time, I am going to be experiencing serious pains from my limbs falling asleep and cut off circulation.

If, on the other hand, I choose the latter definition as my perspective, all kinds of possibilities open up to me! I make myself comfortable, I can settle into a place, and I even have the potential of achieving something. That sounds a lot more appealing than the last option.

It's interesting how the slightest shift in definition and perspective can open up unlimited possibilities in our lives. Sometimes we can get so stuck in the stories we tell ourselves. Strangely, they are more often than not, our own mind playing games with us that just keep us stuck! 

With this shift in perspective, I now have the choice on how I see the next two months. I can choose to sit on my heels and belly ache about the cold, dark, and wet sky that limits my ability to explore. I can also choose to make myself comfortable and set out to achieve something while the sun hangs low in the sky.

I'm curious about you. Where are you hunkering down in your life? Which perspective are you choosing? What possibilities are available to you if you choose a new perspective?

 

Hundred Days of Darkness

Oh sunshine, how my heart beats for you
just a glance from you is like air in my lungs
the warmth of your embrace comforts my soul
a simple touch from you sets my skin on fire

Why, then, must you go and leave me this way
your absence can be felt deep in my very bones
my veins turn cold and threaten to pause their flow
my skin opens as if to shed tears of grief 

One hundred days is quite a long absence
the shortness of each one seem to be closing in on me
The quick moments you appear peeking low in the sky 
are just not enough for my greedy, cold heart

The clock ticks and time passes slowly
the sky shares my grief and sheds tears for you 
it’s crying, it seems, may never stop
the whole earth is filled with a shared longing

Oh sunshine, come back to me quickly
fill my lungs with breath that gives life
burn hope into my skin with your touch
warm my soul from high in the sky

Transformation over Resolution

With the fun memories of Christmas behind us, New Years is just around the corner. I am not really a New Year’s resolution kind of girl. Resolutions are nothing more than a test of will power…and I always fail the test.

This time of year begins to beg our attention towards the new year. The slowed pace of the holidays allows us the space and pace we need to connect to the quiet places inside ourselves. Our souls begin to whisper to us the things we see that need to be different in our lives.

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Our common action is to resolve to make this change or that, but most of the things we are resolving to change hold mysterious power over us in our lives. We often see the thing that needs the biggest change first. Think about it. 

If I’m in insurmountable debt due to my irresponsible financial choices, greed, or shopping addiction, it is going to take more than a resolution to make a real change and dig my way out of debt. If my marriage is falling apart because of unhealthy choices, communication, relational habits, or neglect, it is going to take way more than a resolution to rebuild a loving and trusting marriage relationship. If I’m drowning in an addiction, known or secret, or even drowning in denial about the addiction, it is going to take more than writing a resolution on a piece of paper to bring me freedom and healing.

I hold more tightly to the idea of transformation. Day by day choices that birth deep transformation in our character, our relationships, and our lives.  Transformation has the ability to invite hope, healing, and freedom into our life. Transformation leads us down the path to becoming the person we were created to be. I choose transformation over resolution every time.

I believe that we were made to live free, peaceful, hopeful, and powerful lives. We just get lost in the chaos of this life. I’m not convinced resolutions make that change in our lives. When we make intentional choices towards transformation day by day, we experience transformation and it leads us to our truest self.

If we are looking to make some REAL changes in our lives this year, maybe we could try something new. What if we don’t resolve to make changes? What if we commit to transformation instead?

What if you chose transformation over resolution this year? What could be different for you? 

Just Before Break Through

One of the things I love about the work I do is that I get a front seat to some serious life change! Some days I feel like God just pulls out the best recliner, hands me a blanket and some popcorn, and invites me to watch the show. I get to watch miraculous moments unfold in the hearts and souls of people on a regular basis.

I am coming to believe that every human soul is on a quest for breakthrough. It is sometimes applied to business, education, relationships, health, family, and even dreams. There is this deep universal cry for break through in each of our lives.

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I recently came across an astounding and brave character. Chuck Yeager, a highly decorated US Air Force General. He began his military career as a private in the second world war and went on to be the first pilot to break the sound barrier. 

I was drawn in by his story and his accomplishments. Then a moment came in the video that literally took my breath away. He said something I will not soon forget, especially as it applies to the work I do.

He said, “Just before you break through the sound barrier is when the cock pit shakes the most.”

What a profoundly true statement. Not only as it applies to a plane breaking the sound barrier, but to the soul seeking it’s own brand of breakthrough. It is often just before we reach our goals, just at the threshold of our dreams, and right on the edge of break through that the cock pit of our life and soul shakes the most!

Ask any leader, pioneer, innovator, or entrepreneur if this is true. Nine times out of ten they will tell you dramatic stories involving the upside down, topsy turvy shaking of the cock pit of their mission just before they experienced breakthrough. In order to break the barriers in our life, we have to be prepared for the shaking that precedes.

For those that desire to go wider and deeper in their spiritual journey, they must feel the shaking. For those who are longing for stability and intimacy in their relationships, they must be prepared for the shaking. For those attempting to create, innovate, and lead change, they have to experience the shaking of the cock pit.

I hear people who are interested in being liberated. I speak to people who crave a break through. I listen to people cry out for transformation. I see souls longing to be expanded, developed, and empowered.

God's ways are most definitely mysterious. They are not our ways. He finds a way to lead us down these unexplained journeys and He does it with grace.

Grace has a way of leading us towards harmony and resolve in our souls. We just need to follow Grace and stay one step behind it. We have to find the patience, peace, and perseverance to follow the mystery.

I suppose our journey is not much different from the one Chuck Yeager took the day he broke through the sound barrier. We have to face the journey with courage. We have to be prepared and equipped. We also have to be ready for the shaking that comes just before break through.

What is the break through you are seeking? What does it look like to follow grace? Where are you experiencing the shaking in your life?

Deep Work of Our Soul

A Sacred place is where your soul goes to connect deeply. It’s a place where the distractions of this world seem to fade away. A place where your heart and soul expand with life. It’s a place that can be found in the practice of solitude.

The place can be an actual location. It can be in relationship. It can even be in the quiet of your own spirit.

Sacred places are an important part of our spiritual formation, maturity, and development. They provide us retreat, inspiration, and breath when it is most needed on our journey. They create a space for the deep work of our souls.

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I see a common theme among many of my spiritual direction clients. It’s a theme of constant movement. There seems to be an epidemic of the human soul in constant motion.

Where do we think we are going? What are we trying to achieve? Why do we feel the need to always be moving?

Solitude is a very neglected discipline in today’s fast paced culture. We often shy away, or run away, from the practice and even idea of solitude. I’m curious about our practice of desiring, praying, and striving for the very thing solitude provides, while avoiding solitude completely. 

It’s as if our souls have adopted the convenience mentality. Our souls desire to be developed, but are looking for a shortcut. Our hearts long to be discovered, but we seek a microwave solution. We crave real growth and maturity, but want to receive it in a drive through scenario.

Solitude is important to our soul’s journey for a few reasons. It creates a space for us to listen, to rest, and to connect. It provides us the very things we are so busy trying to achieve, receive, and find with all our frantic movement.

So, how do we find it? How do we start to learn to practice solitude? What does it look like?

I’d love to suggest a few things to think about as you consider solitude.

Stop - There’s a rhythm that our souls are trying to find on this journey. It could be compared to a long road trip. The rhythm to a road trip includes forward movement and consistent stopping. Solitude becomes to our soul like a filling station on a long highway or a pit stop on a long and intense race. When our soul's rhythm is always moving, we will eventually run out of gas. The first step to finding solitude is to actually stop moving, working, and striving. What does it look like to find the pause button for your soul?

Unplug - We are so connected through technology and are able to fill every single second of our lives. Solitude invites us to disconnect from all that noise and connect to the deepest parts of ourselves. It allows us to listen to the cries of our soul that are being drowned out by the constant noise. We are able to connect intimately with our Maker, letting Him fill the silence we create for him. He is able to share deep mysteries, untold secrets, and profound truths with our hearts. This essential act of unplugging begins to make more available to us. What does it look like for you to unplug?


Still - Learning to enter into solitude and be with what we find, is a process. Sometimes we see clearly the weariness of our own soul and it frightens us. Sometimes we run into the ways that weariness seeps out destructively in relationships and we want to turn away. Sometimes we come face to face with a profound loneliness that our soul feels when we find stillness. Something profound happens in us when we are courageous enough to just be still. We allow and invite God to do the work in us that only He can do! Be brave enough to find out who you are when you are completely still before your Maker.

 Receive - Our souls have legitimate needs on this journey called life. The truth is, life has left many of us with weary and exhausted souls. They are tired and battered. Our ability to connect, love, trust, give, and receive are deeply impacted by the unseen weariness of our souls. In all honesty, our souls have a desperate need to receive and receive deeply. We find “snacks” for our souls deep need in books, activities, sermons, acts of service, inspirational quotes, relationships, and many other places. Yet the real need for sustenance in our soul goes unmet by neglecting solitude. What does your soul most deeply need to receive?

I’m reminded of a beautiful scripture written by Moses. The moment is one of profound need and weariness. One that speaks to us today.

The people of Israel had escaped slavery in Egypt through miraculous intervention. They found themselves with the Red Sea ahead of them and the whole of the Egyptian army in pursuit behind them. They started to panic! They were screaming, complaining, becoming angry, strategizing, devising plans, and desperate for a way out. Moses said this,

“Don’t be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today……The Lord will fight for you. You need only to be still.”

I wonder, what deep need are you chasing after with a fury? What battle are you trying to win for yourself? What does it look like to just be still?

5 best lessons from my kids

Anyone who has ever prepared to bring a child into the world knows the one thing that does not arrive with the baby. An owners manual. A car seat, a baby blanket, and a diaper bag is all that is required as the nurse wheels mother and child to the curb.

I have been parenting now for almost 18 years and I have learned a lot along the way. Some lessons have been simple and straightforward and others complex and twisted. I have read hundreds of books on child development theory, relational advice, family system theories, basic discipline advice, and anything and everything in between.

I wish those books were read because of an insatiable desire for knowledge. Honesty requires me to admit they were read because of sheer ignorance. I had absolutely no idea how to parent the two souls entrusted to me 18 years ago (and still don’t!).

But, if I step back and take a look at my journey as a parent, I think my greatest teachers have been my kids. They have been such good sports as kids whose parents admit, on a regular basis, that we have no idea what we are doing! They’ve also been graciously generous in offering up their own brand of advice that has proved to be foundational in our family. 

Here are the 5 best lessons my kids taught me. They are great lessons for parenting. I think they can also be applied in business, marriage, leadership, neighborhoods, churches, politics, and anywhere else there are people. 

 

1. Respect goes both ways.

 

I clearly remember the day my sassy little three year old stuck her finger in my face and told me off. I don’t remember what had her in such a rage, but I do remember that little finger waving frantically in my face. I took a deep breath (mostly to keep from laughing!) and considered my response. 

It didn’t take a genius to measure the level of disrespect that was being hurled my way. My first instinct was a thought that had me grabbing her finger, pointing it back in her face, and telling her off for treating me that way. I decided instead to give her what I was wanting in that moment…respect.

I calmly explained to her that I would be happy to listen to her complaint if she would kindly take her finger out of my face, lower her voice, and find a way to speak kindly to me. She somehow found her way to a more respectful expression of whatever she was wanting and we moved forward. She taught me that day that respect goes both ways.

Demanding respect from my three year old, in that instance, would not have helped her to be respectful. Offering her respect, when she was offering none, was a far more effective way of inviting respect into our relationship. Treating our kids, no matter how small, with respect models for them respectful relationships.

 

2. True apologies build trust.

 

One of the hardest parts of parenting young kids, for me, was the sibling rivalry. My heart would break open wide with my kids fighting and the pull to play referee almost did me in! I found some good books that equipped me and I got creative in my parenting during that season.

I used a little exercise called “Knee to Knee.” To this day, my teenagers shudder when they hear that! When they would argue, pick, and fight with each other, I would require them to have a “Knee to Knee.”

They would sit facing each other, knees touching, and offer true apologies to each other. When they were really young, I would script it for them. My scripts read something like, “Oh dearest sister of mine, favorite sibling, I am deeply sorry for being disrespectful to you. I can imagine how that hurt your feelings. You are a gift that I treasure and I love you. Will you please forgive me?”

The laughter of the scripted reply usually served to dispel any lingering tension. It also taught them how to offer a heart felt apology. They quickly learned the essence of a true apology and begged to say it “with their own words.” As I watched them practice this over the course of several years, they taught me that true apologies build trust.

As they got older, sibling rivalry turned to parental conflict. My husband and I suddenly had the opportunity to extend heart felt apologies for the ways we were choosing disrespect, being judgmental, speaking harshly, or relating selfishly. Our kids responded to true apologies with forgiveness, empathy, and kindness. Trust is built with every single apology I offer them.

 

3. Kindness always helps.

 

My son, when he was little, had a very low voice and spoke a bit like Elmer Fudd. I relished in the days when he was home alone and he narrated his whole life in that cute little voice all day long. His companionship was as enjoyable as it was entertaining.

As a young mom, there were certainly days (and even seasons) that were just harder than others. I can remember one particular day that my emotions flooded out in a true expression of my heart and tears rolled freely down my cheeks. My sweet little man climbed up into my lap, patted my face with his chubby hand, and said, “id ok mama, I’ww take cawe a you.”

He didn't really care why I was crying and he didn’t try to solve any problem or fix anything for me. He just sat there with me and helped the only way he knew how. He taught me that day that kindness always helps

There have been many opportunities in his life to reciprocate and offer him kindness on the hard days. I resist the urge to solve and fix, I stop myself from lecturing (when I can!) and I just sit with him and offer him kindness. Sometimes, in the life of a kid, solutions, demands, lectures, and answers aren’t actually the help they need, but kindness always helps.

 

4. Mistrust breeds rebellion.

 

When my kids were young and in the “Golden Years”, I remember telling them (when we would see groups of rebellious teenagers), “Please don’t be punks when you get older.” Their sweet little smiles agreed with me and promises were made that they would not be punks when they were teenagers.

Rebellion is in my DNA and adolescence only amplified it. I was certain that my payback would arrive in the form of my own rebellious teenagers. It seemed an inevitable, and slightly deserved, fate for me given my own journey through adolescence.

I distinctly remember a conversation with my daughter when she was 13 years old. She wanted to do something social that her dad and I were not entirely sure about. We were wavering on not allowing her to go because we didn’t totally trust the situation. 

She, very boldly and respectfully, explained to us that we were great parents and had taught her how to make wise choices. She went on to say, “At some point, you guys have to trust me in any situation. You have to trust me to grow and be independent. If you choose to mistrust me, you will plant seeds of rebellion in me.”

More wise words have never been spoken. I hadn’t ever considered how I, as a parent, could actually sow seeds of rebellion in my kids. My daughter taught me that day that mistrust breeds rebellion.

I hadn’t found that lesson in any book written by experts. I hadn’t been taught that lesson anywhere in my life. But, what a gift, to have it uttered from the mouth of my own teenager at the perfect moment.

 

5. Hard conversations open doors.

 

Parenting becomes one of two roads. It can be a dance around every difficult subject through distraction, make believe,  or avoidance. Or it can be an open forum of discussion where every subject is welcome.

Maybe because we were young parents, maybe because we craved it ourselves, or maybe because of divine intervention, we chose the later. Our family has been built on the foundation that there is no subject deemed "inappropriate” for conversation. I will say, in hindsight, that was certainly not the easy road.

We were THAT family! You know the one. The one whose kids kindly “educated” the neighbors and classmates on the reality of Santa Claus, where babies come from, what parents do to fish who die, proper anatomical names for body parts, and SO much more!

Having conversations about God, faith, and eternity with a three year old is complicated. Discussing sexuality with a six year old is delicate, awkward, and complex. Sharing thoughts and truths about healthy relationships with a 9 year old is exhausting. Communicating about character, choices, and morality with a 12 year old is difficult to navigate.

One thing that became apparent as I was drowning in open conversations with little people, was that there is value in teaching kids. Allowing my kids to ask any question and honoring them by giving honest answers taught all of us a lot over the years. I was finding all kinds of open doors into deeper relationship with my kids through each conversation.

Whenever they were brave enough to ask the hard question and we were brave enough to give an honest answer, our relationships seemed to deepen. We started to find our kids sharing delicate, intimate, and tender parts of their hearts rather freely. They taught me that hard conversations open doors.

 

I’m grateful for research that clarifies the stages of development humans progress through life. I’m glad to have plenty of parenting and relationship experts share their advice and experience. But my best teachers, these 18 years, have been my kids as they generously share their unique versions of wisdom, grace, and love with me every day.

I'm also astounded at how these five simple lessons could make a major impact in other areas of life. If we apply them to other areas of our lives, they carry some real possibility! It really is sometimes the most simple things that can make the biggest change.

How can these lessons make a difference in your life? What lessons are kids in your life teaching you? What other places do you find unexpected lessons?

 

Tomorrow's Surprise

I use the metaphor of life being a journey all the time. It resonates deeply with me. My own life has felt like a long and winding road with all kinds of encounters along the way. As I walk with others on their own transformational paths it feels ever more true.

In a recent coaching conversation, a client was wrestling with the mystery of the unknown. The intangible nature of the future seemed to unravel them. This brave soul was able to find it’s way to firm footing in order to see the future with strength, courage, and hope.

As I experience God through the journey of others, I am moved to new places of discovery in my own soul. I learn, grow, and am transformed myself as God’s spirit moves around me. I am moved to hunger for a deeper connection to His heart.

When I step fully into my own heart and with courage look down the road at the future, I see it so differently now. The foggy mist that hovers over the turn just ahead does not create fear in me. The mystery that is tomorrow is now a valued treasure

Life is such a gift. We never know what is just around the corner. Sometimes, what waits for us is not at all what we expected.

 

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There are always surprises wrapped up in the mystery of tomorrow. In one hand, heartbreak, and in the other hand, beauty. We long for, pray for, wish for, and hope for the contents of the hand holding beauty.

I’m learning that heartbreak and beauty are often experienced together. One invites the other. They are often delivered in the same package.

Something beautiful lives on the other side of heartbreak

Tomorrow holds all kinds of unexpected surprises. Tomorrow holds lessons, love, transformation, grief, wisdom, beauty, disaster, maturity, and life. These surprises are our journey, they are life

I’ve discovered that there is something else waiting on the road that leads to tomorrow. As I walk through the foggy mist hovering over my tomorrow, I always find God waiting there for me. He stands with arms wide open, a smile on His face, and a heart full of love for me.

When tomorrow’s surprise is heartbreak, God waits there with comfort. When tomorrow’s surprise is beauty, God waits there with celebration and joy. There is a confident power available to me knowing that God is already there. 

His hand holds both beauty and heartbreak. He is already there waiting, just around the corner. He waits with a heart wide open and full of all the resources we will need to walk through life, regardless of tomorrow’s surprise.

 

Why Curiosity Matters to Me

It takes less than 5 minutes with a toddler to see that curiosity is innate to humans. We are born with it. And yet somehow as years pass, it slowly gets quieted, squashed, hushed, and tamed.

 

Have you become so attached to the knowing that you've stopped asking the questions? We can get stuck when we think we know the answer because we lose the wonder of curiosity. When we seek the answer and grip it so tightly, we stop being curious, asking questions, and seeking.

What does it look like to let go of what you know for the sake of learning, curiosity, revelation, insight, and new discoveries? What is it like to stop judging, take away the label of things we know, and get curious? What if we just got fascinated by the world around us?

Curiosity is an important element to our life’s journey! It can actually be a great teacher and resource. Here’s why curiosity matters to me!


Curiosity fuels learning. A toddler is a perfect picture of this timeless truth. Hand them a new book or toy they have never seen and you will watch curiosity fuel learning right before your eyes. They don’t ask what the book means or how the toy works. They allow curiosity to overcome them and they look at an object with fresh eyes. When we let go of the demand for things to make sense and be organized in our thinking and we just get curious, we learn all sorts of interesting things.  This can be true with our work, our play, our relationships, our love, and our faith.

Curiosity silences judgement. Curiosity in it’s purest form has the ability to silence and suspend judgement. Consider the idea of being curious about someone you know. If you approach that person with curiosity only, it silences all judgements you may have about them. We can often be clouded in our perceptions of others by our own judgements. We see people and we think we know what their issues are, what their hopes and dreams are, and what the solutions to their problems might be. But all of those things require a certain amount of judgement. When we get curious about them and allow that to fuel our learning, it silences all of that judgement. This can create new space from which to relate.

 

 

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Curiosity allows innocent delight. When was the last time you just innocently delighted in something around you? When was the last time you took in your surroundings just for the mere pleasure of it? When was the last time you looked into the eyes of one you love and just delighted in who they are? If you and I are honest, we have to admit it’s been a long time, if we can even actually recall the last time. This is a clear result of the quieting of curiosity in our hearts. Curiosity has the power to allow innocent delight of the people, places, and things that surround us. When curiosity is allowed to roam free in our hearts, we find delight in simple things. We allow beauty to move us. We allow love to overcome us. We allow life to be bigger, bolder, and brighter as curiosity fuels such innocent delight.

Curiosity inspires innovation. Curiosity does not believe in limits, cant’, shouldn’t, and never been done. It throws all that aside and sees what can be done, what should be made, what has never been created. Curiosity has a way of opening the doors of creativity in our hearts. Once it’s entered the room of creativity in us, it becomes a gale force wind that cannot be stopped. It is like a small spark in a cellar full of wood. Curiosity seems to shine a bright light into the room of our hearts that contains creativity and sees endless possibility. It takes ideas, connections, creativity, and other resources inside us and it inspires us to innovate.

Curiosity builds intimacy. Intimacy requires a deep understanding. Our minds, judgements, answers, knowledge, solution skills, and problem solving does not usually lead to deep understanding. Curiosity, however, is like the tunnel that leads to the deep part of someones heart. If we follow it, curiosity will lead us into the warm and tender parts of another heart where we will find intimacy. Curiosity will also spread a picnic, build a fire, and invite us to stay awhile. 

 

Nature Whispers

I love the deeply divine lessons that nature whispers to our souls. When we take the time to just listen...stories unfold, ideas are sparked, and connections are made that hold profound truth. Sometimes, if we listen closely, we can hear the answers to our deepest questions blowing across the road right in front of us.

I had an experience with this just yesterday. It is autumn in my little corner of the world and the blue sky and shining sun begged to be enjoyed. I had somewhere to be and decided to forego the car and use my feet.

 

 

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The crisp air filled my lungs and the various colors entertained my sight as I walked. I was looking down at the ground to the fallen leaves when I noticed a perfect little apple right in the middle of the sidewalk. I looked up and noticed a massive apple tree with hundreds of apples on the branches.

My eyes then surveyed the area around me and I noticed dozens and dozens of apples. They were all in various states. Some were smashed by cars, others had been eaten by animals, some had been broken by the fall, and some were sitting perfectly on the sidewalk, like the one that had caught my eye.

I kept walking, but something profound was stirring in me the farther I got from the apple tree. I arrived at my location and seemed to have forgotten about my encounter with the apple tree. My walk home provided a repeat connection.

This time I stopped. I stood under the apple tree. I listened to the wind blow through it’s branches and looked up at the fruit on it’s branches. As I listened, I discovered some unexpected answers to deep questions in an unlikely place.

What lessons might be whispered to you as you listen? What simple thing in your surrounding is begging your attention? What answers might be blowing across the road right in front of you?

 

God's hand and heart

We all long to be full, to be satisfied. We desire to be content. We want to find the place that says, "This is enough, you can now be happy."

I don't fully understand that pull in the human heart and I definitely don't understand the quest. Humanity finds itself on such extremes of either side of that line. The quest plays itself out on the field of our lives and our souls.

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Parts of the world are so far from "enough", it is unimaginable. People find themselves so deep in poverty that just providing minimal food and water is not only a joy, but an impossibility most days. Full and satisfied never enter their experiential understanding.

Other parts of the world can't and won't conceive of such scarcity. Fullness and satisfaction become not only the drive of their life, but in the extreme, an addiction. They can never find the bottom of their desire for more.

I wonder how that translates from our experience into our relationship with God. We set certain expectations and demands on the Almighty that are in alignment with our lifestyle. He can sometimes become the means to our desired end.

I'm curious how often we seek His hand. His hand contains the world. His hands are full of His gifts, answered prayer, our comfort, His blessings, things we desire, our relief, etc.

There is also another thing He offers us…His heart. Often times the journey to deeper intimacy with God's heart leads us to a different place. Sometimes we find unanswered prayer, our soul's desert, discomfort, silence, His direction, a spiritual wilderness, pain, etc.

We often enter our relationship with God with expectations that we will get what we want. We obey, so that, we will receive the blessings we have requested. We engage poverty, so that, He will enrich our finances. We love our neighbor, so that, we will be respected.

Intimately connecting with God's heart is a much messier path. His Spirit resides in the place that His heart dwells, not the territory of His hand. If we are only in a relationship with His hand, we never truly experience Him. We find ourselves in possession of His gifts, but separated from His presence.

All who follow Jesus struggle with the choice between the gift and the Giver. I wonder today, are you in a deeper relationship with God's hand or His heart? What does that quest look like for you?

 

Sacredness of Dawn

I'm a natural early bird, there's no doubt. I am almost always the first one awake in the house. I enjoy the space and silence that early morning provides my soul.

Even on vacation, I am up early and before everyone else. This is most often true on beach vacations. I will often wake up before the sun, go down to the beach, and wait for God to paint the sky.

My family and I enjoyed an extended island vacation this summer and I spent many early mornings on the beach. There is something mysterious about the rising of the sun. I'm struck in a new way about the sacredness of dawn.

As I wake up early waiting for God to paint the sky and usher in a new day, it becomes a beautiful conversation between me and my Creator. It seems a unique way for Him to remind me how very much he loves me. It also becomes my way of saying thank you.

If I think back over my years with God, there are many seasons that involve a lot of intimate moments at dawn. Now, please don't hear that as me being some kind of pious early morning Mother Theresa. It's not that at all!

I have used and abused my snooze button just as much as you have. I've had intentions of rising at dawn and engaging my soul's mysterious journey. Only to discover that in my failure I suddenly was sleeping better than ever and my natural early bird seemed to fly south for the winter. 

But, there have definitely been seasons, short periods of time, when I had a mysteriously divine alarm clock calling me into nature at dawn. In those seasons, the intimate conversations, epiphanies, creativity, and more that emerged surprises me, even now. With God, there is always more to the story and those sacred dawn conversations have seemed to move His plot forward many times in my life. 

 

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To show up just before the sun rises and wait for Him is a way of honoring our mysterious relationship. It becomes an opportunity of showing gratitude for all the ways He has fathered me. It's respecting all the sacrifices, all the beauty, and all the pain He has ushered into my life as He has parented me through this human journey.

For me, it's as if all of nature is with me as we experience the intimate presence of God. There is something about the stillness of it all where I feel like its just God and me and all of His creation in intimate moments of sacred conversation. The birds sing to me, nature teaches me, and creation calls to my soul in a way that nothing else does. 

As I experience the miracle of nature with God, I seem to see Him and hear from Him in ways I do not experience anywhere else. He seems to whisper or shout, deeply intimate things to my soul. The sacredness is so palpable that I share unique experiences with Him in the stillness of dawn. 

I'm struck by the expansiveness that is available in the sacredness of dawn. There is no worry of time, productivity, and planning. I am just enjoying each moment as it come, inviting the next when it arrives. Living in rhythm with what the Spirit brings. 

It's as if the sacredness of dawn removes all other distractions and allows me the space, freedom, and creativity I need to be with just Him. I seem to be able to separate myself from my thoughts, my worries, my distractions, and everything else that gets in between me and God. I stand in the sacredness of dawn, soul wide open to receive. I seem to be the least judge mental, the least scared, the least anxious at that moment than any other. It seems to be the best place for God to reach me.

I wonder, where and when is that sacred space in your life? Where can you hear God's voice the loudest? What is available to you when you go there?

 

Audacity of Authenticity

I've decided to shake things up a bit! I am loving the conversations I am having with many of you over email and social media in response to my blog. They've been so good, in fact, that I am craving more!

For the month of October, I'd like us to engage the conversation in a new way! I'm going to be creating a series of videos called Audacity of Authenticity. I'd like us to explore this idea of authenticity in a new way.

I'm going to be asking 3 questions about authenticity:

1. What blocks us from living authentically?
2. How do we cultivate authenticity for ourselves?
3. What kind of impact might that have on the world?

I am only posing the questions and I am relying on YOU for the answers. Authenticity looks different for different people. We are blocked in many ways and our individual impact on the world is as diverse as we are!

I am going to boldly ask you to help me with this conversation! A new video will post every Tuesday to my blog in October. Will you join in the conversation?!?

You can do that by sharing the links on your social media outlets, sharing your thoughts publicly on Facebook, Twitter, or my website, and even inviting your friends, neighbors, coworkers, or family to chime in with their own brilliant perspectives!

I realize I am calling some of you to come forward to shine in your brilliance! You've been hiding behind email too long. The world very well needs to hear what YOU have to say about authenticity!

You can actually start right now by checking out this short introduction to the series. Feel free to share and join the conversation!