Word of the Week

Worst-case scenarios. Planning for the worst. So many what ifs. Have you felt afraid this week? If so, what about? Maybe someone you care about faced a terrible disappointment. Maybe your experience of growing older this month has felt like one big blow to your heart.

Or maybe you know that your boss is getting ready to pull you off a project you love. Sigh.

Let me stop here and sit with you saying, leaning into the reality of hard things stinks. It really, really, does. Don't let anyone tell you that it doesn't. Fear is such a natural response to the hard things in our lives.

YET, enter this week's word: expectation. Expectation defined as a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

You might be in a hot mess right now, but expectation helps you lift up your gaze from your problems.

Expectation says, "Well, hey, this worst possible thing might in fact be happening, but it doesn't mean all is lost. There will be brighter days to come."

Expectation says, "I am cheering you on. Keep going!"

Expectation says, "I believe in you. Keep dreaming about the future. Keep saying yes!"

Expectation is the medicine you need to get out of bed in the morning on your worst days. Expectation is what keeps you focused your best days too. Expectation can keep you grounded in what can bring you unexpected joy even if it wasn't brought you joy last year.

Several years ago, I found myself in a hard patch of life that seemingly wouldn't end. You know what saved me? I put some things on my calendar to look forward to with people I loved. I silenced my self-censoring voice protesting "You don't have time for that" or "You shouldn't spend money on that" to give expectation space to work its magic.

It was a simple practice that worked its magic on my mood. And even if I didn't actually do these things when the time came, my calendar was filled with hope!

So in whatever you are concerned about in your life right now (and I bet there is something) know I am also believing that expectation is there perching its way into your soul. And since it's there, listen. Listen to hope. Lean into hope. It's got a good word for you of what to do next.

Here's hoping you are surprised this week with something good-



Are you yearning for something that is not yet? I know I am. How do you feel? Are you hopeful? Anxious? Worried?

To this posture, enter this week's word of the week: wait.

Wait is a verb that means to stay where one is or delay action until a particular time or until something else happens.

Waiting can being some of the most frustrating work we do in life, right? We wait in traffic. We wait for our doctor to call with test results. We come to airports an hour or two early just to WAIT.

So many of us hate waiting, because it feels like wasted time. Can't we just get on with life? Can't we just do what we want?

But from a spiritual perspective, waiting is never wasted time.

Teacher Henri Nouwen offers there's a difference from waiting with an attitude of "just getting on with it" and being fully present in the process. He encourages us to wait with openness to what we might learn in the meantime.

"To wait with openness and trust is an enormously radical attitude toward life. It is choosing to hope that something is happening for you that is far beyond your own imaginings. It is giving up control over your future and letting God define our life. It is living with the conviction that God molds us in love, holds us in tenderness and moves us away from the source of our fear."

If I were to be truthful about what makes me afraid in waiting, it's this: nothing good is going to come in the end.

Maybe I'll get to the front of the line and someone will say, "Sorry we're closed for today."

Or "Sorry you didn't get the opportunity."

Or "No, I really don't have time to work with you on that project."

You know the stuff of life that hurts. Really hurts.

But when we wait with openness and we LET GO of the control we'd like to have over our circumstances--- THIS is when life gets really interesting.

Open-handed waiting prepares our souls for the paths more beautiful than we might have imagined when we first started waiting in the first place!

Hear me say this: waiting mindfully isn't easy to do or even what many of us would choose to do, but if this is the season of life you find yourself in, know you're not alone in your wait. So many of us wait with you in spirit.

Be of good courage. Something good is coming.



P.S. If you are looking for a good waiting song, my friend, Amanda sent me this recently that I found encouraging. And this new song from Walker Burroughs "Made to Be" I have had on repeat all weekend. Check them out!

Have you had a busy week? I know I have.

Parenting. Plans to be made for the future. Phone calls. All the things. Not to mention the daily stuff like doing the dishes, the laundry and sorting the mail (no matter how hard I try both of these are always in to-do piles in our house)

With whatever busy has been on your plate, today I'm wondering how are you living it without feeling tired or overextended ALL THE TIME?

Enter into the conversation, today's word: NoNo: the act of or instance of refusing.

When someone asks you to do something that you don't have time to do or don't want to do, you can always just say no. I know I am not offering you rocket science this morning, yet why do so many of us struggle with "no"?

I think it has something to do with the fact that no can feel unkind. No can feel rude. No can feel selfish. We believe we HAVE TO DO certain things to be a good member of our family, community or church. But giving a "YES" when you really want to say "NO" gives gifts that you might not intend. Gifts like jealousy, anger and resentment.

I love going back to these words of Jesus who taught: "Let your yes, be yes and your no be no." (Matthew 5:37).

It's a great reminder that there's not an explanation needed for all your choices, and that the best kind of living you can do is with your whole heart.

No is a complete sentence.

Let's practice. Say it aloud, "No"

Even if there's no one to take your place . . . Even if you feel terrible about letting someone down . . . Even if your laundry doesn't get folded today. You can say no.

The good news about every "No" you give is that it frees up room in your schedule for the right "Yes!"

The yes of relationships that bring you joy.

The yes of activities that fill you up.

The yes of work that helps you inspire others and bring more good to the world. I know I want more of this like of "yes" in my life, don't you?

So today I want you to think about what can you say no to this week. Tell a friend about your "no" to keep you accountable if you need to. Plan and practice saying no. Then, get ready! The freedom of this no is going to bring you a very awesome YES!

Have a wonderful week-



It’s all the craze thanks to this Netflix show and I have to admit that I have joined the bandwagon. I recently cleaned out my closet thanks to the wisdom of Marie Kondo, the Japanese consultant and author of the best-selling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

The premise of Kondo’s advice about tidying up is simple. You can’t tidy without discarding. In the West, we have too much stuff. And it has to go. But how do you decide what to keep or give away?

Enter this week’s word: joy.

Joy is defined as a feeling of great pleasure or happiness.

According to Kondo, tidying up begins as you hold an item in your hand and ask, “Does this item bring me joy?” And if the answer is “no”, you say thank you for whatever gifts the item has brought to your life and then you let it go. You give it away or discard it. Joy-producing items are all that get to remain.

Joy seems like an odd word, doesn’t it when it comes to cleaning out your closet?

When my husband Kevin saw how much I was giving away on the basis of joy, he wondered if I’d lost my mind. “If I did that,” he said, “I wouldn’t have many clothes left!” He was very clear I was not to "Kondo" his stuff.

But I have to tell you -- adapting this joy rule to what I own, I soon felt lighter.

Less has been more. Less frees up time for more. Less gives me more energy to enjoy what I do have.

Here are three observations which I’d love to challenge you with this week as you think about how you might make room for more joy in your life. Or in other words, here's the what's in it for you--

What is one thing you can do this week to invite more joy into your life?

God is inviting you and I into joy this week as we let go of what really fulfills our souls.



P.S. A couple years ago I wrote this article about how I've re-defined what joy means in my life with the magazine The Christian Century. I'd love to share it with you too!

Soulmate? Or Best friend forever? Or in the words of Jerry Maguire, "You complete me!" Language like this runs deep in the water of how we speak about relationships especially when it comes to popular culture and movies. But in reality, life is much more complicated, isn't it?

Friendships end. Partnerships we thought would last forever break up. Even family members that we thought would always be around, are not.

Enter into this conversation this week's word: limitation.

Limitation is defined as the act or instance of being bound or confined.

If you are anything like me, you don't like to talk about the limitations in your life because it immediately takes you to loss. (And who wants to think about that?)

But I think accepting the limitations of others is what helps us live lives that are centered and open.

A great teacher on the topic of limitations is the Catholic priest and writer, Henri Nouwen. He writes about his journey accepting the limitations of others in his book, Inner Voice of Love (which I highly recommend):

"You keep listening to those who seem to reject you. But they never speak about you. They speak about their own limitations. They do not say that you are bad, ugly, or despicable. They say only that you are asking for something they cannot give . . . The sadness is that you perceive their necessary withdrawal as a rejection of you instead of a call to return home and discover there: your true belovedness.”

Because here's the thing we know for sure, not every relationship is forever.

No one person or persons can be all things for you all the time even if they are alive.

Not every friend can handle every story in your heart that needs to come out. Your biological family might not even be where you find true belonging.

Dear, wonderful folks in our lives have limitations. They need rest. They need to say no. They need time to deal privately with their own emotional and spiritual questions.

Joy comes as we lean into the wisdom of these limitations-- not asking anyone in our lives to be more than they want or are able to be for us.

So here's your mantra for this week: Let go of what needs to go. And as you do, trust that what you need will come. I believe it will! God knows the desires of your heart.



P.S. If you want to go deeper into today's word, I'd love to share this post with you about How to Manage Messy Relationships that I wrote this week in response to another book of Henri Nouwen's, Love, Henri.