Choose Love Over Lonely.

Love DinnerThroughout my first year living in East Texas, I prayed every time I went to the grocery store.

“Lord, please let me run into somebody I know, and let us discuss the price of lemons, or dish washing liquid or the crushing loneliness that moving twice in four years brings, and if they could invite us over for dinner that would be nice too. Thanks. Amen.”

It never happened. Not one time.

That spring I was in California, sitting by my friend Karen’s pool, drinking wine with three of the world’s smartest women, when I said, “Yah, I’m basically a hermit now and I don’t even care.” Speechless and mortified, they threatened an intervention if I didn’t come back to California and myself.

But thirsty country has a purpose and I know now what it was for me. I also know heartsick and lonely like my own face, but running to California isn’t the answer (ok sometimes it is). Admitting this feels vulnerable and losery, but maybe if we said such things to one another and quit faking it, we’d get out of the desert faster.

So it was no small thing this morning, when I found my kitchen happily strewn with wine bottles, spent candles, flowers and stray forks after not one, but two Love Dinners. One was scheduled, the other was a charming surprise.

Photo Credit: wili_hybrid

Photo Credit: wili_hybrid

Staring at the chaos with sheer gratitude, I thought “this is what building life with Jesus and his people looks like.” It looks like messy tables and open invitations for people to poke around your broom closets and say, “uh hey, what’s this?”

We don’t do this enough because we care too much what people think. We hide, exhausting ourselves with frivolity and small talk, when what we want is to be known and loved in spite of it.

This may be the best part of following Jesus. He knows me and loves me anyway. So I can relax around people and say “yep that’s a jacked up mess and I don’t know what to do about it.” On Friday night, it was fragile and a little heavy, so my friends turned it carefully in their hands and said, “Nope, we don’t either, let’s take it to Jesus.”

And something precious grew between us that someday Jesus will use for his own purposes.

Sure it’s easier to stay home and watch tv; it’s chancy to invite someone into your broom closet. It’s even chancier to invite nine somebodies, but it’s worth it because sometimes one will show up, hand everybody a tiny gift and say, “I know I can do hard things because I have all of you.”

I’m a million miles from the grocery store parking lot, and you can be too. If you’re struggling with loneliness here are a few tips:

1. You are enough for God, in all your beautiful damage. He can and will steady your heart, if you ask.

2. Then he’ll move all your furniture around and invite new people over to sit in it, and that can be scary and hard.

3. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, just keep walking toward it.

So make the call. Light the candles. Look each other in the face and get down to the way things are.

This isn’t frivolity. It’s legacy.

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I Really Am Going to the Sea.

We’ve got some big news around here.

I have just accepted a position with Mercy Ships, a Christian, non-profit organization that runs the largest non-governmental hospital ship in the world. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has provided more than $1 billion in medical services for more than 2.35 million people, through approximately 575 port visits in 54 developing and 18 developed nations.

English: The Africa Mercy, operated by Mercy S...

While the MV Africa Mercy is currently docked in West Africa, the organization is headquartered in Garden Valley, Texas, 30 minutes from my house.

I will be working with the doctors, nurses and laypeople who travel from all over the world to volunteer on the ship. My job is to help prepare them. The team arrives in Texas next Saturday, and while there are shorter terms of service, this group has committed a minimum of ten months. All this may send me to West Africa for a few weeks, a couple of times a year.

Yah, I’m still absorbing all that too.

Mercy Ships was featured on 60 Minutes last month and if you’ve got 12 minutes, this segment is pretty inspiring. Former U.S. Press Secretary Dana Perino spent all last week on the Africa Mercy as well. You can read her thoughts here.

Tips for Successful Fasting.

In the four years I’ve lived in Texas, I can count on one hand how often I’ve heard the word “vegan.” But since I started the 21-day Daniel Fast, everywhere I go people are talking about tofu and spelt and ordering salads without the standard shredded cheese on top.

Giving up all animal products, including dairy and eggs, and seafood, sugar, fake sugar, yeast, additives, tea, coffee and alcohol seems an impossible task, but I’ve done it for two and a half weeks. I feel good. I’ve lost weight and it hasn’t been that hard. Here’s why:

IMG_57161. We don’t eat out that much. If you do, hopefully you live in a city where vegan/vegetarian restaurants exist. I don’t, so any slippage I’ve had (wait, are tortilla chips legal) occurred because I’m hungry and I suspect the vegetable soup I’m eating was made with chicken stock.

2. I planned like a freak. This is an important component to successful fasting. Hungrily, staring at the fridge with no plan, is likely to devolve into a dinner of hot dogs, popcorn and Diet Coke. So, I took the meal planning grid out of The Daniel Fast book, filled each blank with recipes and page numbers and stuck it on my fridge. I made extra portions and froze them. I invented a tofu smoothie in my blender with strawberries, peaches and almond milk. It’s breakfast-protein revelation. I also started a Pinterest Board of vegan recipes.

3. I prayed. I regularly use the Bible like a self-help book, so when it says things like: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Phil 4:6, I do it. I know that sounds simple, but I like simple. I need simple. I prayed for help and I got it.

I wonder how often we zip up emergency prayers, then forget to notice their fulfillment. For two and a half weeks, my spirit has dominated my impetuous nature – even while sitting in Wendy’s with a bunch of kids eating french fries – OMG I love salty french fries. This change was abrupt and startlingly new, so it can’t have come from me.

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name. I Chronicles 16:29

IMG_5972The Daniel Fast wasn’t about weight loss for me. It was about getting a handle on undisciplined, emotional eating. But in case you’re wondering, I lost 9 lbs in two and a half weeks being a hard core vegan.

I will finish the fast on Monday. On Wednesday I am going to France for a week, a country where no rational person should diet or fast. But since I’ve only begun disciplining my spoiled inner child, who would love to wash down three chocolate croissants with Champagne at breakfast every day, I’m still praying.

What tools do you use for making big changes in your life? Do they last?