This morning I woke up far away from my cottage in the woods of the Pacific Northwest. Instead of the pungent smells of pine and cedar, I drink in the scent of the sea. And instead of my pot of steaming tea, I sip slowly from a foamy bowl filled with cappuccino served with a spoon.
In just a few hours a group of hand-picked parents will make their way from Albania’s capital city, Tirana, to the coastal town of Durres, on the edge of the Adriatic Sea.
These are leaders— in business, in government, in NGO’s, in churches. They are followers of Jesus in a country that is nominally Muslim and predominately atheistic.
And they have kids. Children they love who are being raised in a culture that goes against everything they believe.
In just a few hours Phil and I will tell our story. How we met and married with high hopes. And how, when pregnant with our first child, we realized we had no idea how to raise children who want Jesus. And how that scared us.
And I’ll look into the eyes of the mothers and I’ll see that same fear. We’ll know each other in that long look. The camaraderie that comes from a shared passion.
Every parent there wants what we wanted: children who grow into people who are passionate, all-in, wise, fruitful, faithful followers of Jesus.
We will spend hours talking and listening and teaching and delving into the Scriptures and praying and sharing stories and laughing at the ridiculousness of our dreams for our children.
And God will be here, bending down to listen.
I will tell these parents, so like us when we were young, about how we prayed, over and over again, for wisdom. How we held hands and cried out to the Father for what He promised in James 1v5:
If any of you lacks wisdom,
let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach,
and it will be given to him.
And then we’ll share with them the treasures He gave with so much generosity that we’re overwhelmed and overflowing. I’ll watch in wonder as they scramble to write it down, filling the notebooks with letters I cannot read.
And I’ll tell them that He’ll do the same for them, here, on the other side of the world. With Macedonia’s snow capped mountains off in the distance and Greece right behind us, Phil and I will pour ourselves into a new generation of parents in the hope that they will pour into a new generation of Albanians who will, in turn, raise up a new generation of leaders who will bring Jesus to a country that desperately needs Him.
Will you pray for these people? These parents? This generation?
And will you pray for me? For us?
I have relished praying for those of you who dare to dream with God. Keep telling me those stories and I will keep hoping with you and praying for you.
One day, a while back, I asked a group of friends this question:
If someone gave you a million dollars, and told you that you must spend it on yourself within one year or you’d have to give it back… what would you do with it?
I didn’t leave them much time to think about it lest everyone get too lyrical and logical about the idea. I was after visceral reactions. I wanted to hear dreams.
One by one we went around the circle of fifteen, each woman dream-spending one million dollars on themselves. What the solid majority of my friends (young and old[er}) wanted was….
I was stunned. Really? Because, you see, I grew up traveling all over Europe with my family. When we came home from our time of living overseas I was in high school and I promised myself that I would never travel again. Ever.
I am perfectly happy staying in my cute little cottage with occasional forays to the mountains or the seaside.
If I had a million dollars that I just had to spend on me… I’d find a vintage A-frame cabin on a lake and fix it up just so, then host Comer family and friend vacations as often as possible. And sometimes I’d go alone, all that introverted side of me flourishing in the silence.
When I told my daughter, Bekah, (who absolutely loves to travel whenever and wherever possible) about my surprise at my friends’ dreams, she couldn’t stop laughing. “Mom, everyone wants to travel!”
And though she didn’t say it, I could hear her thinking just what you’re thinking now: that I am really, really weird… or odd… or something along those lines.
Do you want to know where I am right now?
On a plane bound for Albania.
I know, I know, I don’t deserve this. Or the two days we’ll explore the rich history in Thessalonica, Greece. And certainly not the weekend we’ll stay in Donnes, an Albanian resort town on the Adriatic Sea.
And I’m asking myself the same question you’re asking: Why me?
In the past couple of years I have traveled to Uganda, Brussels, Haiti, Hawaii, Germany, Austria, Italy, Indonesia and Albania. Plus, on the home front, I’ve spent time in Santa Cruz, L.A., Palm Desert, San Francisco, Vancouver, Eugene, and Newport.
And I don’t (or at least I didn’t) like to travel!
Here’s what I know:
God is a giver of dreams… and God is bigger than our dreams.
Which is why I am drinking coffee at 30,000 feet.
My secret dream was born over thirty years ago when I began to ask God for wisdom I didn’t have. A fairly new follower of Jesus with our first baby in my arms, my asking was pretty desperate.
What do I do? How do I do this? Help!
I had no idea how to raise children to follow Jesus— I hardly knew how to follow Him myself! And so I prayed and then I introduced myself to the mother of the godliest teenagers I knew and asked if she’d teach me. Laurie Keyes was everything I wanted to be: wise, godly, consistent, joyful, so full of passion for Jesus that just to be in conversation with her was like being at a retreat. And she was (and still is!) strikingly beautiful, with that kind of glow that all the fancy clothes and cosmetics in the world cannot create.
I listened and I learned and wrote notes and read every book I could get my hands on that had anything to do with the spiritual nurturing of children. For decades!
And somewhere in there I started to want to find a way to pass on all this richness to others who, like me, don’t have a clue.
The wanting led to dreaming. The dreaming led to praying. The praying led to a whole lot of work. The work led to… a dream come true.
This morning as I hustled about tidying up my cottage (because everyone knows that you’ve just got to leave your house absolutely perfectly clean when going on a trip! Which, surprise, surprise, Phil thinks it utter nonsense!!), something dawned on me… something profound… something it’s taking me far too many words to tell you…
God knows the me that I am.
I thought I wanted to stay in my cottage in the woods, to live simple and quiet.
And that is, indeed, a part of who I am. But there’s more, and I didn’t know it. Now I know…
I was made for this.
I love this adventure. I love packing my bags, reading ahead about where we’re going, saving up frequent flyer miles so I can take my now-grown kids with me someday.
I love meeting new people, making new friends, finding soul-sisters all over the world. I relish tasting new foods (Albanian food is the best! All feta cheese and fresh peppers), I love learning how people around the world do life.
Most of all, I love doing this with Phil, whose love of travel and willingness to lead the way makes him the best companion imaginable. (Plus, he gets up every morning no matter where we are and finds the absolutely best coffee to be had and brings it to me so I can drink it in bed. How’s that for the real deal kind of love?)
Today we fly across the world to teach parents in Durres, Albania how to raise children who are passionate followers of Jesus. They are the first generation of Believers in a country that was officially atheist until just over 20 years ago. They don’t know what they’re doing any more than I did. And they want to learn, just like I did.
I can hardly wait to get there! Me, the woman who made that ridiculous promise to myself. Do you think God may have been chuckling?
Do you have a dream?
Because I think— no, I know— that…
God has tasks for you that combine all of who you are with all of who He is in a dream big enough to change the world.
There’s probably risk involved and you’ll undoubtedly be way out of your comfort zone at times. You may have to try some things you don’t think you like, and you’ll certainly have to work hard and long.
And oh, the joy! Because…
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, so fun as doing the dreams God has for you.
From my heart, high in the sky,
P.S. Okay, here’s your open door:
Will you dare to dream right here in black and white? Write it down for all to see, this dream you barely dare. I, for one, will pray for each and every one of you. For courage, for hope, for help— for joy.
“Their hands will get too weak for the work, and it will not be completed.”
But I prayed,
“Now strengthen my hands.”
Now… strengthen my hands.
God has given me work to do, of that I have no doubt. That work gets me up early every morning, eager to get to it. It is a vocation that I love, but it’s still work. And sometimes the work wears me out.
Yesterday was one of those worn out days.
And so I slept in, drug myself sluggishly to my cabin in the back where most of my work is done, dinked around, wasted time. I started things, then abandoned them at the slightest hint of resistance, leaving a trail of messes along the path of my day.
It happens to me sometimes. More often than it should.
Yesterday’s malaise had nothing to do with my work… and everything to do with me. Sure, I was tired. I didn’t feel good, hadn’t slept well, needed a bit of rest.
More than anything else, I just lost steam… why is that?
And so I got up this morning, asking my Father.I came to Him needing to hear, wanting to know so that this day would be different. I asked timidly, like a naughty school-girl expecting a finger in my face.
Instead of reprimand, I heard compassion, grace. I sensed His heart, so much nicer towards me than my own heart is.
I heard Him say… that He knows how that thick wall of opposition sometimes slows us down… to a crawl.
While I was lambasting myself for being lazy… He was seeing the unseen.
He knows what I didn’t even notice— those enemies of my soul, disguised and hidden— who, behind a smokescreen of silence— threaten, defeat, frighten, and discourage me.
Nehemiah knew them as strength stealers. Paul knew them as conflict conspirators.
Sometimes, as in Nehemiah’s story, the strength-stealers come in the form of a letter… and e-mail… a phone call.
At other times, those joy-zappers come wrapped in guilt. Or comparison. The fiery darts that defeat us before we even begin.
Mamas know those enemies too. The ones that keep you up at night, wrapped in worry.
The voices that scream inadequate! with every mistake you make.
But here’s what woke up my morning: all Nehemiah did, when he realized what was really going on was this—He prayed a simple prayer, with simple words:
Now, strengthen my hands.
And so as this new day beckons with new lists, new worries, new challenges, I bring these simple words to the Father.
Now, strengthen my hands.
And then I come again and bring these words for you, all the wearied ones, the ones I know and love, whose work sometimes wears them out:
Now, Father, right now, will you strengthen her hands?
From my heart,
P.S. May I pray for you? If you will let me know in the comments, it would be my honor to bring this simple prayer to the Father who hears.
P.S.S. Read Nehemiah’s story in Nehemiah 6, and Paul’s story in Acts 9:19-29 because what He did for these men, He offers to you— and me.
“Does He not see my ways and count my every step?”
“You are a God who sees me…”
“Every moment You know where I am.”
This morning the woods are awakening. Squirrels have emerged from their winter hiding to scurry and scramble up the trunks of the firs and cedars that surround my cozy cottage. The black spruce right outside my window trembles gleefully, dancing in delight as I watch. Gnarled ash trees unfurl new leaves in incremental waves of life.
Fresh, vibrant, resurrected life.
And I wonder, as I tuck myself into this safe place—my cabin in the back, about you.
As I pray for you, my girls, and as I lean in close to the Father’s heart to listen, I hear stirrings. I wait— still, craning to hear. A watcher in the woods.
What is it, Father? Creator of all this tangled beauty, what are You saying? To me… to the women I love… the ones I write for?
And one phrase won’t leave me alone. A handful of words jingling like change in my pocket.
… your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
His words warm me through on this chilled morning, because He sees you….
In your giving to those who need you— again and again and again— until you feel turned inside out from the giving…
In your nighttime vigil, pacing the floors, praying for someone in your life who needs more than you have to give…
In the intensity of your fasting, forsaking what you need for that one whose needs overwhelm your soul…
Three times these letters in red dance like squirrels delighting in new-found freedom.
Your Father, who sees in secret… Your Father, who sees in secret… Your Father, who sees in secret… will reward you.
A promise. A pledge.
And I wonder who needs to know this.
Who are the hidden ones— giving, praying, doing without— who need to know, right now, that You see?
I don’t know who you are or what you’re giving.
I can’t see what you’re doing or what you’re doing without.
Yet as I sit in my cabin surrounded by swaying branches and dancing squirrels, I bring my heart for you to the Father who sees and knows— who rewards the secret things.
And I feel Him bring me in close to say…
He is proud of you.
He knows it’s hard to keep going.
He understands loneliness.
I pause and I pray. I make my way into the house to warm up my now cold coffee, all the while wishing I could hold you close. Feeling the weight of this burden that is yours alone. The burden no one else sees and even if they could, they wouldn’t understand— not really.
I hear more…
He is with you. He is for you.
He wants to feed you and strengthen you.
He, only He, is your rest.
The woods are still now. Just the barest whisper of wind sways the branches above my watching place. They’re working now, those squirrels. Doing what they need to do: gathering food, burrowing holes, feeding young.
My day beckons with work that won’t get done without me, as does yours. And so I leave you with the One who sees and knows and is with you always.
May you know that sweet there-ness of God in your secret place of giving,
From my heart,
P.S. I am here to pray for you— and would love to hear how He is meeting you in that place no one sees.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
Yesterday was an exhilarating day for me. Eleven years ago, on Easter morning, Phil and I saw the dream of starting a church come true.
With more fear than faith, we’d poured ourselves into the task, gaining confidence that God was really in it as He brought others—more gifted than ourselves— to join us. A retired finance guy to handle the administration, a gifted engineer to organize the set up and tear down, wise elders to lead, efficient women to manage and multi-task. So many willing to show up and do what needed doing.
But still we worried. Would it work? Would anyone come? What if they didn’t? What if we’d heard wrong?
So we worked harder than we’d ever worked before and prayed more than we’d ever prayed before. We knew we weren’t enough, but we were learning that God is.
And as the days and weeks passed, we learned deep the lessons of dependency, that…
When we don’t have what it takes to do the task God assigns us, He brings all that He is into the story and does more than we could ever do without Him.
Do you know that too?
This morning as you bathe and dress and feed that baby, wondering how in the world you will help him grow into a man after God’s heart?
When you wave your teenager out the door, wondering how in the world you will help her stay strong and pure and in love with Jesus?
When you sit at your desk and wonder how in the world you will get it all done?
The fact is, without Him you and I— we can do nothing of real value.
But with Him, in Him, following near and listening close, He can do so much more than we are capable of even dreaming!
Which is why yesterday was so exhilarating for me. To drive in and have to slowly follow people to their cars like a parking place stalker, then walk the long way into the jam-packed building, squeezing past lines of people waiting for the Gathering to dismiss so they could make the mad dash to get seats for the next one… then to raise hands in worship, bumping shoulders, hugging friends, hearing more stories of lives rescued, watching baptisms— so many!
This morning I wonder at our little faith. I apologize to this One I am learning to listen to. Again. And I feel Him smile, a little mirth added to our morning together.
He knows the task He’s put in your path is too big for you.
And He’s not worried at all.
But He knows that you are, and I think He wants you to know that…
He’s with you, fully present.
With Him… in Him… if you will listen and do what He says… learning to trust Him a little more…
He will accomplish what concerns you.
And I think you will be amazed. Astounded, just like I am, at what He is able to do with a man or a woman who is honestly all surrendered. Not perfect. Not super-gifted.
Just all His.
From my heart,
P.S. Do you face a daunting task today? I would love to pray for you. If you’ll leave a few lines in the comments I’ll join with you in bringing your worries to the One who answers so willingly and so well.
I’m back at my desk after a month of mourning. Not that I’m done with sadness, but I’m sensing the invitation from the Spirit to get back to my calling to write. And so I sit, this morning, at the desk my dad made in this cabin tucked under the scented boughs of an enormous redwood tree. This spot is my refuge, a safe place where I hear God clearer than any place else.
The glimmering candle on my desk reminds me of the beauty of the friend who gave it as a gift of love. My new daughter-in-law’s mother, Natalia, is one of those rare treasures who sparkles with joy in the midst of a story she didn’t want. I am reminded of her as I do the final edits on my own story. Of how the Redeemer we follow weaves texture and color and loveliness into our lives in spite of— or perhaps because of— difficulties.
He is the Beauty-Maker and as He draws us close, we become like Him.
This morning I thought I’d bring you into my cabin to peer over my shoulder as I smooth and polish and pray and ponder over the words that will soon be put to print.
This is a glimpse of the me-I-was just before I was diagnosed with a progressive hearing loss that would eventually lead to total deafness. I was 26, enveloped in the world of babies and toddlers, homeschooling a first grader who gulped up knowledge like a starving lion.
I loved my life. But something left me empty and longing for more…
I wasn’t happy, not really. And I knew it.
And so I began to do the only thing I knew to do, the only thing a good Christian girl could do—I prayed. Every day, I asked God to do something, anything to change my heart. I prayed when I woke up, while jogging, while shopping, while cooking yet another family meal on yet another day of doing right.
I didn’t pray once. Or even twice. I prayed every chance I got, as if by begging God, I’d get Him to hear me and He’d have to give me what I craved.
I needed more. I wanted more. I had to have more!
God knew I would need all of Him to face the days ahead. He also knew that in order for Him to answer my cries for more, I would first need to let go of the pervasively self-serving idea of my own goodness.
The journey that lay ahead of me was going to be more arduous than all my rule abiding good-girl-ness would be able to handle.
I would face dark days, days of discovering that I was not as good as I’d thought, that my façade wouldn’t hold up under the pressures of life gone wrong, that a desperately “bad” girl lurked in my soul.
That I was a woman who didn’t know her true colors until she didn’t get her way.
I was about to embark on a journey of facing the worst about myself and finding God in the rubble. In that place of desperation, I would discover that what God wanted more than all of my exhausting efforts to be good was me, just as I am.
The real me.
And though I would flounder and fail, though I would shake my fist in His face, He couldn’t wait to gather me in close to show me what I’d been wanting all along.
As I edit these words I am praying for all of you who know the hunger that haunted me then. That emptiness, the sense that having everything I ever wanted was not enough.
I am praying that you will hear and know and experience the love of God down deep in the marrow of your bones.
That you will crave Him, longing for the beauty He alone brings. And that you won’t stop seeking until you’ve found all He has for you.