Pay It Backwards

Hey sweet Mamas – I’m paraphrasing my favorite author here – “The day you delivered your sweet little bundles, you brought them into a crazy world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen to them. Do not be afraid.” – thought borrowed from Frederick Buechner.

Other human beings will hurt us. We will hurt some of them. The question is what to do with the pain. Of course, there are different levels of pain. What I’m thinking about today is the small-to-moderate variety of human-on-human hurt. And with the start of the school year, my mind is also on my kids.

My middle kid, 8th grade girl, got my attention yesterday. I asked her if she had any particular hopes or goals for 8th grade. She said, “I would like to be more focused and present in class, but really, I just want to try to be kind to 7th graders because I wish 8th graders had been more kind to me last year.”

We hear a lot about paying it forward, but she wants to flip pain on its head and pay it backwards. What a sweet picture of redemption.

I’ve watched the same thing with my senior. He experienced a ton of rejection from 5th grade through last year. Now most of the kids who dished that our are gone, and he seems intent on making sure every kid he comes in contact with feels accepted and respected. He is investing time and energy encouraging younger tennis players, to help their hearts as well as their tennis game.

Our hearts are drawn to redemption stories. We eat up redemption movies. It is because we all understand brokenness. The thought that we could be mended, that relationships could be healed, goes to the very depths of us.

But to live a redemption story means that you must experience pain.

Brutal Redemption

This is not intended to be a brag session on my kids. Don’t worry – we have plenty of whining, door slamming, and eye rolling around here. And I have cried myself to sleep many a night knowing my kids were in pain because of social rejection.

But what an awesome thing to help our kids consider how they can take rejection, flip it around, and pay the beauty of redemption back to younger kids. This works for me, too. I had a lot of internal pain and anxiety during my years with babies and toddlers. Now, years later, how do I flip that around and give back to the Moms who are in that season now?

What does this look like for you?



Black Gold


There are many things in my life’s story that I would alter if it were up to me.  Pain caused by broken people, grief that knocked me sideways, loss of loved ones and friendship, character flaws, and royal screwups. But, as I have no magic time machine, alteration of the past is not an option. So what to do with this stuff?

For most of my life, it went into a garbage heap somewhere deep inside me, invisible to others unless they knew where to dig, out of sight even though I knew darn well it was in there. It was the ultimate in nastiness -moldy, putrid, and rotten.

Eventually it outgrew its container. There was nowhere else to put my garbage, so it started to collect in more visible places. The noxious waste that I had so carefully hidden began to leach out into every corner in my life.  Anxiety over possible exposure led to profound fear, insecurity became self-hate, old resentments turned to cold bitterness, and doubt crept towards downright unbelief.

I grew up with my summer-camp-simple clarity, VBS rainbow bracelets, and the whole world in His hands.  

I was black (bad), there is red blood, and then I was white (good).  There was green for the continual growth I would enjoy, then I’d get to walk the gold streets of heaven.

It sounded like a fairytale because in many ways it was.  I believe the red part of what had to be done to save me – and the gold part, that we were created to coexist with God beyond this broken life.  But all those other color beads run together sometimes into a murky muddiness.

Very broken people, even in the midst of shame or addiction, sometimes act with incredible grace and beauty. Saved and put-together people can be downright despicable sometimes.

My sin, as I experience it inside, has never gone from black to white in this earth-bound heart and body.  I remember yesterday’s stumbles in excruciating detail and today’s slip-ups are hiding just around the corner.  But I am beginning to hope that there is an interim part of the story.

I don’t feel fully clean in the eternal sense, But God is going about His holy business of turning my waste into compost.

As I am honest about my private landfill and expose it to the air and light of day, things are beginning to change.  With new nutrients introduced and regular tossing, the stench is receding.

Now my pile of refuse is still black, but eventually, it’s going to be black gold – a beautiful infusion that will be the very thing that nourishes the garden of my heart and the hearts around me. A landscaper’s dream.

Some days I wish for a simple-Sunday-school-clean-magic-bracelet life, but getting my hands dirty in the garden of my complicated heart and in the fascinating hearts I am honored to interact with is what I’m made for.