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Being Seen

Jill1Hi. I’m Jill, a writer, speaker, editor, pastor, and all-around person in need of grace. Particularly now, since currently, I’m working on moving my blog and website information over to this lovely and venerable site. But for now, if you’d like to read current or past blogs, please visit me here.

I talk about a lot of things on my blog and in my books and articles. But usually, they focus on a few main topics. Fear, faith, empowerment (particularly of women and the next generation), caring for those less powerful, and trying to live freely the abundant life God has given us.

To let you know I know what I’m talking about with this fear and empowerment thing, let me give you some background.

warriors-together4I’m the kids who refused to step too far into the back yard after dark. The woman who slept with a nightlight when I was twenty. The person who would still rather face a rabid bobcat than walk up to a stranger and begin a conversation. Fear has been a really close acquaintance of mine. For too long.

Yet there is God, telling me to live “adventurously expectant.” To look at each day and ask, “What’s next?” And that enthusiasm isn’t supposed to lessen when today’s “next” wasn’t as great as I’d hoped. Or when we’re terribly certain tomorrow’s will be worse. “Fear not” may be the most common command in the Bible, but fear is also perhaps the most common human emotion. What’s happening here?

I don’t want to live life as a grave-tender, so wrapped in fear of what might be that I lose the time in between. I want to live an adventure for God’s kingdom, and I want to do it with you. I want to know who I am, and I want you to know who you are, because of who He is.

I want us both to know the identity God put in us when he created the imago dei in the garden. He hasn’t rescinded that deal. I want to see you and hear you and know you–and I want you to know He already sees and hears and knows you.

To prove I’m serious, here’s your first story.

I’m terrified of spiders. If you don’t believe this, you’ve never seen me run out of the shower shrieking because there was an eight-legged creation of God on the tile wall. Which is a good thing. No one should see me run out of the shower. Ever.

I hyperventilated if I saw a picture of a spider. But before leading my fist mission trip, I decided, no more. Time to face it. It can’t be as bad in reality as in imagination. Sure it can’t. Totally believed that, except not.

Spider (1)I marched into the pet store (OK, I crept into the fourth pet store, after failing three times) to find a tarantula and–you got it–hold that baby. The very helpful pet shop guy talked me through the traumatic process. He assured me the spider would just sit there. And you know what? It did. You know what else? They’re actually soft. And even cute in a . . . creepy, way-too-many-legs-and-eyes, spidery sort of way.

Seriously, God gave me such a calm that the whole thing was kind of surreal and interesting. Plus, I made sure to get it on video. Because, you, know, this is not going to be repeated on an annual basis or anything.

I’m not saying I’m going to go out and get a bird-eating tarantula for a housemate anytime soon. But–fear only has the power we give it. And I was tired of giving it.

The Lord knows I’d lived through way worse than spiders by that time, anyway.

So, let’s join one another. I can’t wait to see what happens here.

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PS– I’d love it if you want to hit the button to subscribe or shoot me an email to be put on my mailing list!

Hollywood Jesus and Hobbits

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Well, I am not having another book launch, but while I’m running articles from other sources, it would be terrible of me to overlook the fact that September is, after all, Bilbo and Frodo’s birthday month. So here, from Hollywood Jesus, is an interview to celebrate!

In case you want to know more before committing to clicking over, here is a bit of the interview.

2. Why would teenagers want to read this book?

It might seem that fictional fantasy characters don’t have much in common with real teenagers. But that is so not true. They feel inadequate, afraid, angry, proud, exhausted, hopeful—all the things we all feel. Teens are looking for their adventure in life—how do they fit in this world and what is their task? In Tolkien’s world, it’s all about tasks and unique callings; it’s about normal, average people finding their place and doing great things. How do they do it?

3. How is this book different from all the other ones out there on this topic?

Well, I have a professor who endorsed my book who said in his reply email, “When I first received your request, I thought, ‘No, not another one of those books! Then I read it and loved it.’” So—it’s not another one of those books? Another reviewer called it “delightfully sarcastic and irreverent while deeply spiritual.” I rather like being called that.

Read on here.

Strangers Together

I am not good at making friends. I don’t approach people. I don’t know how to start a conversation. I don’t engage first. When that conversation has to happen partly in charades, I’m ready to bow out and let someone more intrepid than I give it a try.

But those eyes told me she could be a friend. They also told me she needed one.

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This week, one of my favorite mot recent pieces on (in)courage. How do we make friends, real friends, across cultural or other lines? I hope and pray you can find such an experience.

Read the whole piece here.

I am so sorry–last week’s link was not in the post. Here it is. Thank you for your patience.

 

Reading Outside my Norm

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When my kids were in school, I spent about eight years coaching our junior high Battle of the Books team. Think Jeopardy for YA literature. The kids read twenty books and answered competition questions like, “In what book would you find main characters who speak lapin?” (Answer: Watership Down, by Richard Adams.) Oh yeah. The coach still has it.

Several of the books we read were best sellers written by Joan Bauer.

Joan Bauer retweets me.

Yes, this does make me inordinately excited.

Today, I’m over at the Breathe Writer’s blog, talking about underdogs, reading uncomfortably, Joan Bauer, and my new book. 🙂  Join me here to hear the whole story!

I’m also speaking at the Breathe Conference the first weekend in October! I am excited to pack up for Grand Rapids once again–it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite places. If you’re there, say hi! (If you’re a writer–GO!)

 

 

Back to School, IRL version

IMG_5059This week, a piece I wrote on Christian Parenting about going back to school. This year, my baby is going back for her last year of college. Let that sink in. (Meanwhile, I’ll be over here ugly crying on my keyboard and short circuiting it. But whatever.) Enjoy — no matter where you fall on the spectrum of sending anyone (including yourself) back to school.

I’m not here at the take-out end of sending kids back to school to give you great tips for kale salads that look like ostriches playing kickball. I’m not going to tell you how to color-code your school supplies with brads and die cuts and washi tape. This is not something I am an expert in.

I’m here with five tips for life in all its beautiful feelings when you say goodbye to those kids, whether it be to kindergarten or college. Whether those kids are going on a bus, driving themselves to high school, or headed right back into your living room to go to school—remember these things.

Click here for the rest of the article.

 

Failing Successfully

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It’s Throw Back . . . Um . . . Monday. Whatever. What that means is that I’m going to be running some articles on the blog that I’ve written for other publications.

Because vacation.

And life.

So here is an oldie (in internet terms, anyway)–Parenting for successful failure.

What the what?

New York Times Parenting blogger Jessica Lahey points to research that most of our kids’ inability to deal with failure, and therefore succeed, stems from our generation’s unwillingness to step away from our kids.

Helicopter parent. Raising my hand right here. Guilty. I did once practically bribe other kids to come to my daughter’s birthday party.

How do we give children the skills they need to fail successfully, (Yes, that’s a thing.)

I loved working on this piece for A Fine Parent, and I hope it’s helpful to you today.

You can also click here.

Scars That Teach Me Who I Am

Plenty of people have slapped labels on me in my life, and I allowed many of them to stick. The quiet one. The little one. The fearful one. I believed these labels. I thought they defined who I was, and who I would always be.

Until ten years ago, when I got these scars.

In the moments I doubt who I am, I look at those scars. . . 

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This week,  I’m over at the MOPS blog talking about identity. Do we have to always be who people say we are?Do we have to stay the same and keep the same labels we once had? I can tell you from real life–that’s a definite NO. Our identity isn’t some rock solid thing that isn’t malleable, and labels fall off. They don’t wear well. We can let them slide away if we choose. Come join me at MOPS to read more.

There’s Enough Mess and Moxie for Us All

You may not believe this, but there has been enough mess in my life to require help getting out from time to time. Some of it may even have been self-inflicted. (See photo above, with exercise hair and a forgotten headband around my neck. Plus the two-armed selfies my kids like to give me grief about. Don’t judge.)

There is also enough moxie in my life to say the morass is worth the time we spend in it, and the ability to eject ourselves from it is not so far from us as we think.  (There is a lot of moxie in that beautiful cuff from a friend. “Seek justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly.” Yes.)

Does that sound like a book title? Well it is.

Tomorrow is the release of a book I’ve had the great fun of being on the launch team for. Jen Hatmaker’s next book, Of Mess and Moxie, releases August 8th! Here is the review I’ve already written, if you want to know what I thought. (Even if you don’t, it’s here, because my blog, so, my review.)

I met Jen Hatmaker in 7, resonated with her soul in Interrupted, fell in love in For the Love, and now, in Of Mess and Moxie, I know where she’s been and of what she speaks. Life is surely so much of both if we’re really pursuing the Kingdom. I know her intense heartache at having your children be the moment’s mess. (Nothing hurts like that. Nothing.)

I’ve been through the transformation of finding out you don’t actually know all the things. That, too, hurts, but it’s so good. (And oh, the grocery store section. Does she shop with me?) I know how humor like Jen’s is sometimes the only option when the mess is so deep you don’t know if you’re swimming up or down.

Beyond it all, the moxie she talks about—that strength God gives women to power through and make beauty from mess— what happens when that is unleashed, and we do as she says— “Flatten your feet—nothing in your life is too dead for resurrection”? That’s a freedom I pray this book brings to its readers.

Being on Jen’s launch teams for the last two years has been a game changer. It’s not just the woman and her work. It’s the team God assembled through her. We women have joined with one another. We have been for one another. We have laughed, cried, fought for, cheered on, financially supported, and gutted it out with total strangers on the internet, until we have become church. Real church.

Believe me, I know church. I have just completed a 15-page paper on the theology of the church for my doctorate classes, so I. Know. Church. (Yes, i still have feelings about the entire process.)

Because church is defined as called out ones for Jesus, people who hang together in community and show the world that, by their ability to hang together no matter what, they are His. We have done that. We are freaking amazing, really.

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We don’t always agree. Before you ask, I don’t always agree with Jen, either. I don’t have to to admire her heart, talent, and ability to connect with people who need to hear the words that they possess the moxie to handle the mess of their lives. I don’t have to always agree with someone to promote words that bring healing. I don’t have to agree with everything to call someone my sister and stand with her side by side in the battle for justice and mercy and Jesus’ kingdom.

Heck, sometimes I don’t agree with myself from one day to the next.

That’s why this group, and this book, make church. We are so different, but we rally around one thing–God can make a beautiful life and world out of people who decide that differences can help us move forward rather than keep us divided.

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So is this post more about our amazing group or about the book?

It’s both. We could not have assembled this community without the words of Jen Hatmaker telling us that it’s OK the have big feelings, big hearts, big hurts, big disagreements, yet still be a big force for Jesus. Together.

I wish I could give you all my favorite quotes from the book, and maybe I will in coming weeks. But I think this is my favorite, perhaps because I have lived it.

God has not given us a spirit of fear, nor has he saddled us with a spirit of defeat. We live because Jesus lives, because he is real and present and moving and working and he will not have us conquered. This is not hoodoo; it is a powerful reality. Flatten your feet, because nothing in your life is too bad for resurrection. It can be worse than you think and more crushing than you imagined. And even then, we live.

You can find Of Mess and Moxie here. Have a week filled with both!