Brothers and Saints

I have 4 brothers. None of them are actual blood brothers, they’re brothers-in-law, but it’s their in-lawness that makes each of them so individually wonderful and lovable. One brother saves me tasty produce from his garden, another is my workout buddy and idea bouncing buddy, one hungers for knowledge and loves to talk books, and one accepted Christ while a teenager at church camp and now he’s a compassionate father for lost children. Because I am the oldest in my family and my husband is the youngest, my brothers span a twenty year age spectrum, but as different as these guys are, they all have one important thing in common – they all love Jesus (and yes, they all have me for a sister in law, but that’s not as important). Because of marital ties and spiritual ties, we are family, and I’m proud to claim these men as brothers.

In pursuit of learning, and because of his soft spot for his Catholic roots, my fellow book nerd brother recently began texting me a daily reading from the yellowed pages of his book of saints. We live in separate time zones, so he texts me during his morning reading time, then I wake up a little later, grab my phone, and read my lesson for the day. We’re a few weeks strong into Saint School and we’ve already added a new student, so it seems that S.S. is gaining accreditation.

My brother and I share a bond with our recent enrollment in Saint School, plus we share a love for my sister (his wife, and also, the new student), but we also share a name – the feminine and masculine forms of the same name – and Thursday happened to be the feast day of our names’ saint: Michael, the archangel. Had I known sooner, I may have planned a more feast-like dinner, but lackluster leftovers were taking over the fridge, so I figured I’d skip a night of cooking and begin writing an unexpected post about saints and brothers.

Before Saint School, I was very unfamiliar with the saints and their stories – my protestant background focused on persons of the Bible, testimonies of church members, and happenings of missionaries – but reading about these men and women has strengthened my commitment to living my faith well. I’ve been challenged to give more generously, inspired to pray more effectively, and encouraged to love more dangerously. Some of these Christ followers endured horrible persecution and death for their faith, reminding me that my freedom to worship is a privilege I often view casually.

The faithful mentioned in Hebrews 11 and all throughout the Bible, the saints remembered in my brother’s book, and the loved ones who followed Christ before us are examples of great faith because of their devotion in living, not only in dying. As noble as it may be to die for your faith, it isn’t as inspiring as living wholeheartedly for the God of your faith, but the only way to live in full dedication to Christ is to die in another sense: die to selfishness.

Dying to selfishness means living with less so you can give more. It means forgiving, listening, noticing, sharing, and yes, it means loving the unlovable. These are simple reflections of the God we live for, but these are the examples of Christian faith that people are desperate to see. It takes commitment to put others before yourself. It requires daily focus on the One you’re living for, so that you’ll be strong enough to live His way instead of your own way – which is exactly how Saint School came to be. My brother begins each day with a commitment to read his book, which reminds him to live for Jesus. Then he remembers He’s not alone as a follower of Jesus, so he reminds me (and my sister) to live for Jesus, and together, we are strengthened in our commitment to live our faith as best and as simply as we can.

So strengthen your family ties with your Spiritual brothers and sisters. Read the stories of those who have lived in faith, but more than that, surround yourself with loved ones who will live in faith with you today.


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Aloha for all seasons

Temperatures are sweltering here in Arizona, but the school year is already underway, making it official: summer is over. But don’t fret, I’ll give you a summer recap in throwback style.

“Here’s what I did this summer…”

Lounging on a Hawaiian beach has been one of my #goals since before there were #goals and this was finally the summer for making my dream a reality. My husband and I hadn’t been together without the kids since our honeymoon, so doing whatever I pleased, going to bed as early as I pleased, and never once cooking a meal was a shock to my system and a dream week come true. The waves were relaxing, the Hawaiian people were simple and kind, and the aloha culture was calm and unrushed. When we boarded the plane to come home, I felt completely refreshed. My beach vacation had ended, but I wasn’t bummed, because I was bringing the spirit of aloha home with me – like a souvenir for my insides. I couldn’t wait to share it with my children. We would enjoy each other and a laid back summer break.

And that’s exactly what we did. We played board games and did puzzles, we swam and watched afternoon movies, and for a solid month or so, our house was the hotspot for friends and neighbor kids. Most mornings I even slept in past 5. It was an extraordinary summer of ordinary moments and laid back living.

One afternoon, the kids and I were going about our summer business, headed to the Dollar Store for summer delights like candy and cheap pool toys, when we were suddenly bombarded by  ‘2 cool 4 school’ signs and giant bins of glue sticks and index cards, all displayed next to the 4th of July decor. I was tempted to grab some eraser caps and lined paper, you know, to make me feel like I had a jumpstart on the back to school thing, but I had plenty of summer left to enjoy and I refused to be rushed. I remained calm and squeezed in a few more laid back weeks before beginning the back to school preparations.

Turns out, there was quite a bit of back to school preparing to be done. My children were passing the summer days in leisure, but their bodies had been growing at a less than leisurely pace. We made our lists and even though they were longer than usual, I had every intent to keep things easy and breezy. The office supply store was first, then a couple department stores, and then Dairy Queen – to rejuvenate. We hadn’t found everything we needed, but we figured we’d finish up the next day. Nope. Weeks of precious summer were depleted skimming through clothing racks and rows of expensive shoes (even cheap shoes are expensive), filling the cart and emptying my wallet, checking pencils off the list only to realize we still needed binders, and then finding the binder shelf empty. What had happened to my laid back summer?  I felt like a half-crazed hunter-gatherer collecting items for my offspring and it was during these last few days of summer vacation that I uttered something I rarely utter: “I’m ready for the kids to go back to school.” The Aloha spirit that set the summer ablaze was hardly a flicker. Time for a new season.

New seasons bring fresh energy, but the first day of school brings unique energy. My kids were awake and ready early, chattering all through breakfast, and smiling big and proud for pictures before they left. It’s the fresh start, I think. It’s the unmarked notebooks and the unscuffed shoes and the clean slate with a brand new teacher. I had a fresh start, too. I had a quiet house (that stayed clean all day!) and new energy for endeavors that the summer noise couldn’t accommodate. But new seasons also bring new challenges. Quiet days quickly become busy afternoons of carpools, and math problems, and dirty school uniforms. Kids come home tired from structured days and no longer find it thrilling to wake up before the alarm. Within a week, the fresh energy of the new season was already gone.

Late the other night, my daughter sat on her bed – the bed she should have been snuggled in – surrounded by books and papers. Her eyes were too tired to read and too bewildered to close. She was overwhelmed. I was stretched across her bedroom floor doing my best to reel her back in and assure her she wasn’t destined to live in a cardboard box if she didn’t make straight A’s as a high school freshman. She was struggling to fit cheer, homework, downtime, and adequate sleep into the rushed school week and I was attempting to offer good solutions, but nothing sounds good to a tired teenager, or a tired mom. I was also overwhelmed and doing my best to reel myself back in from believing that the public school system was ruining my life. How would I shuttle children to activities, help with homework, get an adequate amount of sleep, and still find time to enjoy life? I headed to bed frustrated and half convinced I was packing up the family, moving to Hawaii, and reclaiming my aloha.

Exhausted but unable to sleep, I crept back to my daughter’s room to find her lying under the covers, her room dark except for the glow of the full moon on her face. She was turned toward her window, peacefully gazing at the sky. Her unfinished assignments would keep until morning. She asked why sometimes she could see the moon and other times she couldn’t, and I reminded her that the earth and the moon are always moving, making the moon visible from her window during different seasons. We admired the view for a little while. It was beautifully ordinary and soothing, just as our summer had been. We prayed together for refreshed minds and renewed spirits. We were in a busier season now, but perhaps we could still enjoy some laid back moments – we’d just have to be more deliberate about finding them. As I left her room, I whispered to my daughter – as much as to myself – “God is good to give us different seasons.” She agreed.

When I’m overwhelmed, I may benefit from a vacation or a little more sleep, but if I want to be truly refreshed, I need a renewed spirit. A renewed spirit is a shift of focus from the inside, like a change of pace for the soul. A renewed spirit is kind of like an aloha summer – it’s embracing the moment, and knowing when to do more and when to do less. I can’t avoid the challenging seasons, but I can trust the Giver of changing seasons is also the Provider of energy for each season. He’s taken great care in creating beautiful moments for every season.

So embrace your season and enjoy life, one moment at a time.


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Hummingbird homes and better questions

Seated comfortably on the couch, she was writing in what I assumed to be her journal. She had picked the perfect spot, right beside the picture window with a beautiful view of the enclosed patio garden. Birds were flitting about and singing under stripes of sunlight beaming through the arbor. Spring had arrived and a little hummingbird was building her nest.

Class wouldn’t start for another hour, the store wasn’t open, and coffee was not yet brewing. It seemed she had no real reason to be at the Hope Center so early. Perhaps she had needed a ride that morning and was dropped off early, or just as likely, she had chosen to come early because it was better than sitting at home.

We had never conversed much before, other than the typical courtesies of, ‘Good morning!’ or ‘How are you?’ But on this particular morning she needed to talk. She didn’t politely ask if we could chat. She didn’t probe me with a few preliminary questions to determine if I would understand or judge, she simply launched straight into the serious stuff. I admired her brave vulnerability.

She opened with a confession: she was contemplating divorce. She was actively contemplating it, actually, because the papers were in her bag. In her words, the divorce would be an anniversary present to herself. It was a unique 25th anniversary gift. Usually it’s something silver.

“He wants to stay married, but he doesn’t want to change.”

The marriage had rules – when she could go, where she could go, and whether or not she could use the car. His whereabouts, however, were never for her concern. Countless sources had seen him around town with other women and she had recently learned his paycheck was being garnished for child support. She wasn’t listing complaints, she wasn’t having a pity party, she was only articulating the pieces. She shed no tears.

But when she spoke of her daughters, there was a quiver in her voice. The girls had been verbally disowned by their father since they were small and had never known their father’s love. Childhood had been unhappy and harsh. The youngest of the sisters left home while still in high school and had been crashing at friend’s houses ever since. Home was unkind and the hurting girls were pulling away.

I listened without speaking. I was at a loss for words, and from what I could tell, she wasn’t seeking my advice. She only needed to be heard. This new acquaintance across the room from me wanted to keep her vows as a wife. She wanted to be honored by a faithful husband. She wanted to embrace her privilege as a mother, but it had never seemed she could have all three. I suddenly understood what had brought her to the Hope Center during the quiet hours of the morning – she was praying for wisdom.

When we truly pursue God in life’s impossible spaces, we stop asking Him, ‘Why?’

When we sincerely crave wisdom, we ask God, ‘How?’

‘How do I respond, God? What response keeps me closest to You?’

In every circumstance, our response determines our next step – a step toward the Shepherd or a step away. When we give God permission to direct us, He lovingly provides direction.


We stop to watch the hummingbird outside. So focused, so careful, so determined to make a good home. She’s small enough to nest safely on the plug of a string of patio lights hung along the arbor. Her tiny collection of leaves and twigs is coming along and soon she will be snugly situated, caring for her offspring in the home she has built.

My new friend is smiling, completely transfixed. “That’s so cute,” she whispers. She’s calm – burdened but peaceful; pensive, yet present enough to recognize that God is close. I wonder if for a brief minute, her troubled home seems far away. I wonder if she, too, will be making a new home soon.


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Pogo sticks and important things

Last week I had the pleasure of being at an elementary school talent show. It was a genuine pleasure because I’m a mom and my 2 youngest children were 2 of the acts, but I’m also a blogger. Can you even imagine how many stories I could write about an elementary school talent show?! So many stories, not enough words.

But my favorite story needs only a few words: girl, pogo stick, flute. Yep, when they announced that act, I thought, “This is going to be a great morning.” Then the girl entered the stage with her pogo stick, her flute, AND her music stand, which she proceeded to set up just a few feet from her face, mere inches from where she would soon be pogoing and fluting, and I suddenly thought, “This is going to end badly.”

It could have ended badly, but it didn’t. The bold little flutist pulled off her impossible act, and I instantly turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, “That looks like my life.” She laughed, probably because she gets it and thought the same thing about her own life. Or maybe she just laughed because that’s how she responds when a crazy lady talks to her at an elementary school talent show. Either way.

Many days I do feel like a pogo sticking flutist, especially that day. I had spent the morning pogoing around the kitchen, packing lunches while doing squats so I could get both done before the talent show. I got to the school early to grab a good seat, so while I waited I answered emails and opened a couple days’ worth of mail. I kissed my talented children goodbye and rushed (safely) to work to relieve the co-worker who had covered the morning for me. Getting my shift covered had been an act in itself – weeks of texting coworkers, luring them with my musical requests, trying to pied piper someone into covering a few hours, but you know what? At the end of the day, I had pulled off my semi-impossible acts.

Sometimes you have to double up if you want to do several important things in a day. I love my kids and I wanted to be in the audience watching them sing. I like my job and I have a responsibility to work my scheduled shifts. Reading emails, opening bills, packing lunches, executing butt-lifting squats – all of these things are important, too. Maybe they don’t have to be done, but there are consequences if they are ignored. (37 years of gravity. Squats are important and will not be ignored.) But later that evening I pushed off my chores to relax with my family. Sometimes you focus on one important thing at a time.

Now it only seems appropriate to weave a double theme into a post about doubling up, so stay with me.

My thoughts keep turning to those adorable young kids and their talents. Some of them have blossoming talent that will grow the more they nurture it. Others have an impressive gift, and if they keep practicing they’ll become masters at their craft. But all of them have some serious guts. A lot more guts than I ever had as a kid. NO WAY would you have found me on a stage in front of my peers, with my creative heart laid bare, waiting for the chuckles or the applause.

But here I am, all grown up, exposing my vulnerable little heart on a virtual stage. I’m not sure if getting older gave me more guts, but it certainly gave me more desire. I want to write, I want to practice, and I’ll double up on my tasks if it’s the only way to fit writing into my day. Writing isn’t my gift to the world – it’s been God’s gift for me. I thought I understood most things about the Jesus life, but writing about God’s truth (one more truth at a time) has helped me figure out one thing for sure – I have a lot more to learn.

God already knew this. So in His perfect timing, I wandered into a center for women and adolescent girls in crisis – a place called Hope – and immediately began volunteering. It’s been a fantastic opportunity and I’ve continued to learn even more about who God is. Not who I think God is, but who He says He is. More than that, being with the women at Hope has shown me how God transforms lives, how He heals us in our deepest pain, and how He rescues us from the bleakest situations. The women at Hope have stories (some would give you nightmares), they have guts, and because of Jesus, they embrace each day with dreams and desires, knowing a loving Savior is writing their future. God isn’t about people’s stories, He’s about people’s lives. He’s about giving life, changing lives, and bringing us back to Him. God reveals His truth in the everyday stories of our lives.  

My life is full of important things, so here’s the deal: I’m doubling up. I need practice writing, the women at Hope need a voice, and we all need encouragement and truth. Sometimes OMT posts will be a window into my life and other times they will feature a still life of someone else – an overcomer, a fighter, an anomaly – but all posts will continue to focus on the God who gives life.

He should always be our focus, and here at One More Truth, He always will be.


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