Category Archives: Grace in Big Gulps

Why I Left My Church One Easter

Why I Left My Church One Easter-3It took me more than five and a half years to write this story, the one where my heart left my church one Easter. And even now, I am fully aware of the following:

  • I left a building and a shepherd, not the people and not my true Shepherd. I still run a prayer group (going strong many years now) with wonderful women I met there. The Church, ultimately, is the Body of Christ, and I will never abandon her.

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, ESV
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.

  • I still love the people who remain, and I am keenly aware that they have their reasons for finding something of value there. For a few years, I did as well.
  • None of this is to disrespect that particular church or shepherd. We are all God’s children.

But I believe this story has value. I hope you can have an open heart while reading it.

As Easter 2011 approached, I felt that sick feeling in my gut I had been feeling for years, really. Easter is a time to invite friends to church, to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, to spread love to a world that needs it (yes, we should be doing that all the time, but people tend to seek a church out for Christian holidays).

But I had a major problem:

I couldn’t picture wanting to invite anyone to my church.

In my mind at the time, right or wrong: If they were already broken, they could break more. If they needed Christ, they would only find Him being beaten on a cross.

They wouldn’t necessarily get the message that His resurrection brought grace.

I agree that it is very important we understand He took on our sin. Our sin and what should have been our judgment placed upon His body are realities we must never forget.

The judgment-only focus did not mix well with depression, anxiety, and abandonment already part of my history. Nor did it help a young mother longing to connect with a real, loving, compassionate God.

So, I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I begged my husband to go away that weekend with the kids. We could still attend church—just not our own. How sad is that? I’m not proud of that moment, but I needed the other half of the story. I needed grace. So to Burlington, VT, we went and worshipped and celebrated Easter with a lovely evangelical church there who took us in.

And that’s the day I knew I had to leave. Read the rest of this entry »


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To Be Called by Name

To Be Called by NameIsaiah 43:1, ESV

But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”

Our house is full of new pet excitement right now. After researching lionhead rabbits for two months, we found a lovely breeder on a small farm in Nowheresville, New Hampshire, about an hour north of us.

Four years ago, we brought home our first family pets: two Shih Tzus (lion dogs). We are apparently obsessed with animals with a lion resemblance! Earlier this summer, we rescued a few tadpoles from our pool that are now tree frogs in a terrarium. And now a bunny. I did not grow up with pets, so the fact we now have five still amazes me. And while my Shih Tzus’ names were chosen before they were born, my frogs still don’t have names. My younger son insists that they are full-grown before we attempt to give them specific identities.

And this bunny. This fluffy, double-maned, dwarf-sized rabbit is basically a ball of fur with feet and ears. It is a black and gray beauty, and despite our hours of brainstorming names like Truffles, Mistletoe, and Avocado, it remains nameless*.

When I asked my daughter how she chose this particular baby rabbit from the four does that were available, she said: “It was the softest. That is what I wanted.” And a memory from 13 years ago completely snapped into place for me: a tiny ten month old crawling down the hall toward the only shag carpet we had…in the bathroom, collapsing victoriously onto the edge where she pet that carpet over and over again as her reward for all the strenuous drag of her body. At that moment, I thought: “God made this bunny for her. He knew she would identify its fluff as hers when they met.”

But I will tell you something. The bunny knows my daughter’s scent, her light touch, her cuddle, the warmth of her cheek against its side. In just a few days, it anticipates her cupping her hands to support its baby hind legs. It hears her rustle in the loft bed above her cage and knows its owner is there. It is secure and can snuggle down for the night. Hay and water will be there in the morning.

What I find so difficult is talking to the frogs and bunny but having no clear way to address them. I feel like somehow it holds part of my affection back, that until they are associated with a name, I cannot fully give my heart to them. Somehow a name Read the rest of this entry »


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A Lesson from Life on the Prairie

A Lesson from Life on the Prairie-2Over school breaks, my family likes to binge-watch some of our favorite television series. We are a bizarre mix of interests: everything from science fiction to historical drama. We are huge Doctor Who fans, and recently, I introduced my two younger children to LOST. At the time that show first aired, our family had made a decision to accept a temporary post in the Marshall Islands for a few years. LOST became a reality to us in more ways than one, but that is a story for another day. My tween son really enjoys The Flash.

When she can manage to find the time, my daughter loves following Little House on the Prairie, which takes me back to my childhood. My mother and I have vastly different emotional wiring, but the end of a Little House episode was one of the few times I would see her shed tears. As an adult now, I think I understand why. The wholesome, Christian values presented in every crisis on the show are the end goal, right? They show what we should aim for, more or less, but also where we currently fall short. Whatever he was in his personal, real life, the actor who played Pa Ingalls brought an ideal into our living rooms each week.

And Pa regularly weeps.

My stoic daughter sees this as a bit overdramatic at times, and perhaps it is. But for me, Pa’s tears are a huge relief.

Life hurts. We fail at times. We can’t control other people or outcomes. And wayward children/teens/adults often have to learn the hard way.

We have made our way (after many years of intermittent watching) to Season 9, the final season, and in it, Pa’s adopted son Albert starts experiencing negative behavioral changes. He is hanging out with the wrong crowd, needing acceptance, and in the city life, he falls prey to a morphine addiction. Pa does what he can to change the environment to give him a new start; they temporarily move out to Walnut Grove again, but taking the addict away from the temptation does not produce a cure.

When I entered our family room, I caught a scene where Pa locks Albert Read the rest of this entry »


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Bowing Low: The Message of Reconciliation

Bowing Low

Knock, knock, knock. Send her an email.

Really, God, we’ve been through this for years. I get the idea, I ask if it’s time, and You say, “Not yet.”


And so it was, that still, small voice telling me what I already knew He would want me to do: I needed to reconcile with someone I had hurt and been wounded by—three years ago. Outcome didn’t matter. A response from the other party wasn’t the point. It was about who I am in Christ. If I truly am reconciled to God through His Son the Christ, then I must be a reconciler. There isn’t any gray area there.

Consider what the Apostle Paul says in one of his letters to the Corinthians.

2 Corinthians 5:16-21, ESV

From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;  that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.  For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Paul makes it very clear that when God made us a new creation, He “gave us the ministry of reconciliation.

It’s not a choice or an option, really. Once we are new creations, it’s part of the deal.

And let’s be honest: That is wicked uncomfortable in theory, but God is with us(Immanuel) in practice. When it was time, after three years of healing and asking God to confirm it, it was as natural as sliding on my flip-flops.

Why is that? Read the rest of this entry »


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Prayer from Dirty Bath Water

Praying from Dirty Bath WaterI watched them approach the shrine, bow, ring the bell, toss a coin, and clap. Somewhere in there, they made a request—a wish, really—for a good medical test result, getting into the right school, a worry about one of their children. I was struck by how much my Western mind and heart did not connect with how they offered their pleas. I understood the heart behind it—but not the actions.

But I wasn’t raised in Japanese culture.

My host family and I had many conversations about this around the dinner table. I wanted to understand at which point their “faith” held on, tangibly grabbed belief, and grew expectant. Twenty-four years and two degrees in Asian languages and culture later, and I’m still not sure. But I do know that it opened a door to rich conversations and some understanding between us, and I came to learn that rituals and gestures at the shrine were more about respect than faith. Ringing the bell was to get the attention of the god of that shrine.

Why is Jesus not found at a shrine?

Do we not have rituals we must perform, like money and hand gestures, to conjure His attention?

And, what on earth do you mean, ふいつげらるど-さん (Fitzgerald-san, or Miss Fitzgerald, my maiden name) about talking to God in your bath water?

Bath water? In Japan, Read the rest of this entry »


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5 Ways to Defeat an Insecurity Problem

5 Ways to Defeat an Insecurity ProblemIf you ever want to know what insecurities are on a magnified level, spend one day sitting at a middle school lunch table. The cattiness, the put-down behavior, the one-upmanship: It’s a hot mess of growing humans who aren’t fully sure of their identities yet, and, feeling under a microscope as if the entire world is looking, they lash out at everything and everyone to find their place in the pecking order. It’s human sorting on steroids. Where do I fit in? Who are my friends?

Don’t get me wrong. I love middle school students. My husband and I teach the middle school and early high school crowd in Sunday School. They can be deep thinkers and amazing communicators—but we see them in a safe setting where they can be themselves and share from their hearts.

I know several of them face open hostility and negativity Monday through Friday from the minute they get to their bus stops to the minute they arrive home. While there are amazing growth points in middle school, I have always said that if you can survive middle school mostly intact, you can get through almost anything.

Personally, I’m delighted to have two children already through the murky, turbulent waters of middle school. I hold my breath as one more child goes through. And while middle schoolers get a bad rap from this kind of behavior, the truth is: Some folks struggle with this into adulthood. Insecurities can be slithery snakes that chokehold us from experiencing joy and hope for the future.

Let’s take a brief look at the damage our own insecurities can do. They can lead us to: Read the rest of this entry »


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Strong Enough to Jump

Many of God’s creatures like to create life in my aboveground pool. We’ve had tadpole rescue sessions (before the pool was shocked for the summer), and a few months ago, I discovered many eggs (larvae?) half-hatching from what looked to be flying ants. Yeah, so fun. Welcome to mating season. Come one, come all to what has been mistaken as a “love pond” in my backyard.

I was having such a lovely float around my pool one day for a good half hour. Slowly I drifted round and round to the steady pulse of the pool pump. I stared at the tall trees, prayed for dear ones, and marveled at the fact that my children are no longer the ages I am interrupted every few minutes. It was glorious. GLORIOUS!

When my youngest son came out with goggles on and the jumping-in-pool determination of an 11 year old set on a good swim, he made it through one quick pool-bottom-floor lap before surfacing with a shout:

“Ew! A dead frog! There is a dead frog on the bottom of the pool!”

Still not wanting my peace disturbed, I replied: “Are you sure he’s dead?”

My son, lover of all animal life and greatly saddened that an amphibian friend met its demise in our pool, exclaimed: “It was belly-up, Mom. And not moving.”

With that, we both scrambled out of the pool in search of a net to extract the remains to give it a proper burial (before my dogs thought it made a nice chew toy).

My son, Little Man, completed Operation Dead Frog Retrieval and put him down on the grass at my feet. Yup. Dead. Froggy had suffered his last supper with a side dish of chlorine.

He simply couldn’t jump out. His legs could only take him so far. He never made it out of the solar cover and over the side of the pool into the bushes.

I then thought about the five tadpoles we had rescued a few weeks before Read the rest of this entry »


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