Slow But Forward


Will I ever finish my photo project?

For 2016 I resolved to completely organize my digital photos.

  • I’d arrange them by dates in folders.
  • I’d save them on an external hard drive (and free up storage on my phone and laptop!).
  • I’d print out copies of my favorites and put them in actual photo albums.

I didn’t finish in 2016.

But I did make progress. I started backwards at 2015, then 2014, 2013, 2012. And now I’m at 2011.



So four years of photos are now neatly displayed in chronological albums sitting on my coffee table. Memories that we can look at. Laugh at. Reminisce through. (Somehow that’s more satisfying to me than scrolling through them alone on Facebook.)

The project seemed overwhelming a year ago (and in many ways, it still does). But here’s how I forced myself to do it:

Give it  just 10 minutes

I added a 10-minute block on my online calendar daily for “Photos to Print.” Then at some point during the day or night, I’d set a timer for 10 minutes and just do it.

I often think “I don’t have enough time” to do this or that. I’m an obsessive schedule-maker. I see my time and energy as limited resources that must be optimally allocated every day.

But 10 minutes? If we don’t have 10 minutes to spare every 24 hours, we’re not doing something right.

So I’m keeping the 10-minute daily block for “Photos to Print” on my calendar for 2017. I still won’t do it every day. But as long as I’m making progress—and I am!—that’s good enough.

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish this year, remember your small steps in the right direction will add up.

Continuing to move in the right direction is more important than the total number of steps taken altogether.

I’ll stick with the snails:

It doesn’t matter how slow you go, as long as you don’t stop.

* * *

Is there a project you want to finish in 2017? What keeps you moving forward? Please share in the comments.

sharing with DawnDeb,

Spiritual Friendships as Story

Every life is a story.

In Keith R. Anderson’s new book, Reading Your Life’s Story: An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring, he teaches us to read our stories better.


Although the book is officially about spiritual mentoring, I read it as a book about Story (my One Word for 2017) and spiritual friendships.

“This volume is an invitation to learn to read your life as story in the companionship of spiritual friendship and to come alongside others to read their life as story. Whether you are mentor or mentee, the task is the same: you learn to read life as story and invite others into prayerful conversation; it is an invitation.”

It’s no passive endeavor. Anderson calls this “reading” a holy task with a sacred purpose. I agree.

He divides the book into two parts:

  1. Uncovering Your Life Story
  2. Uncovering the Movements of the Spiritual Mentoring Relationship

Part One: Uncovering Your Life Story

Part One sets up the importance of engaging story, keeping in mind God’s primary role in co-creating the story.

“We believe our spirituality is shaped by narrative and how we tell the stories of our lives.”

The way we frame our stories matters. We don’t recreate our narratives, but we read what the Author is already writing, with “faith in the presence and voice of the living God.”

We give witness to the work God is doing in each life.

“Spiritual mentoring starts with a trust that something else is at work, someone else is active, something more is going on in the world around us. Greater forces are always at work.”

Part Two: Uncovering the Movements

Part Two provides more details about the interactions between a spiritual mentor and mentee. But even if a formal mentoring relationship is not your goal, you can glean value from this section.

Anderson offers questions and a way of listening that can enrich any relationship.

“You listen to a person who is, herself or himself, a story. They bring a story that is not the same as the one they brought a week or a month before. Why? They have lived life and their character has developed in that time; plot lines have unfolded, and God has been at work in the minutes, hours, days and weeks.”

Here are some questions he suggests:

  1. What’s chasing you?
  2. Are you at peace?
  3. What would you do with your life “for free” if you didn’t need any income?
  4. Do you know anyone who lives the kind of spirituality you put on yourself?
  5. When was the last time you remember being content?
  6. Why do you always “should” on yourself?
  7. What do you know that, had you known it twenty-five years ago, would have made a difference in your life these past twenty-five years?
  8. If you were to create a “to-don’t” list to place alongside your to-do list, what are three things you would write first?
  9. Why do you persist?
  10. If Jesus invited you to climb into his lap and whispered something in your ear, what would he say to you about yourself right now?

Spiritual relationships enrich our lives over time. They aren’t to be rushed.

“It matters that you can sit in something slow and focus on the long walk of faith.”

Anderson concludes that our greatest spiritual growth rarely comes in a classroom or while listening to a sermon.

Rather, we grow by “taking the stuff of our ordinary lives” and “placing it on the altar of refining fire,” and there finding “all stuff redeemed for a life of holiness.”

An old Jewish saying asks, “Why were human beings created?”
“Because God loves stories.”

* * *

Have you been in a mentoring relationship? How did it work? Please share in the comments.

Thanks to IVP Books and NetGalley
for the review copy of this book

sharing with JennyHolleyRosilind

Invisible Band-Aids

As society modernized, people found themselves able to live independently from any communal group.
A person living in a modern city or a suburb can, for the first time in history, go through an entire day—or an entire life—mostly encountering complete strangers.
They can be surrounded by others and yet feel deeply, dangerously alone.
Sebastian Junger in Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging

I was unloading groceries last week.

As usual, I was trying to make as few trips as possible from the car to the house.

In my haste, I scraped my knuckles against the metal of the car. It hurt. I bled.


As the week went by, I kept re-injuring my wound. Who knew how often we unintentionally rub our knuckles against things all day long?

So I started wearing a band-aid to protect the scabs.

When I showed up on Thursday to read to Jenna’s kindergarten students, what did they notice first? My band-aid.

With oohs and ahs, they’d say, “You have a band-aid! Why???

But not all wounds come with a band-aid.

And so they go unnoticed.

Jay (not his real name) is one of the young men that Kay and I deliver meals to each week. He has a chronic illness, but you’d not know it by looking. Only when Jay began losing weight and looking more pale did we realize he was getting sicker.

When we asked, Jay told us how sick he really was. And equally as important, he told us how tired he was of being sick. To the point of suicide.

Invisible wounds are often carried in isolation. What can’t be seen is often not shared. And not given treatment as quickly or thoroughly as a more visible ailment.

I sometimes wish our bodies came with outer gauges:

  • “Has a headache”
  • “Didn’t sleep well last night”
  • “Joints are hurting”

Visible signs of pain might help us be more gentle with each other.

Instead, we have to pay closer attention to more subtle clues, the invisible band-aids, like slower steps or shorter answers or change in weight.

And we have to ask questions, genuinely listening for the answers.

We didn’t have any solutions for Jay’s illness or his depression. But we could at least listen, offer prayers for relief, and let him know he is not alone.

While wounds may sometimes be invisible, people should not be.

I continue wearing a band-aid on my knuckles. If I still need it next Thursday, I’ll try to replace it with a cuter one for the kids.

Because they will notice. Then they will ask.

May we be more like the kids.

* * *

What tips you off to someone else’s pain? How can you tell they are hurting? Please share in the comments.

sharing with KellyHolly,

3 Resolutions to Grow Faith through Uncertainty


Google doesn’t know everything.

God does, but he doesn’t always share it.

Where do we go next with our uncertainty?

We’re looking at three resolutions to make this year to handle our insecurities with the unknown.

Read the rest here.

* * *

I’m writing today at Do Not Depart. Please join me there for “Three Resolutions to Grow Faith through Uncertainty.”

Memorize Psalm 121 Together


What words will float around in your head in 2017?

If you want to be more intentional about what you tell yourself, this is what works for me: memorize a chapter from the Bible.

A community is gathering now to memorize Psalm 121 together. You’re invited, too. We’ll officially begin Monday, January 16.

The pace is among the easiest, yet it will only take six weeks to get this one in. This psalm is short but powerful, every word counting.

There are certain strong truths that the Lord wants us to know:

  • God is our help
  • He won’t let our feet be moved
  • He doesn’t sleep on the job
  • He is our shade

If you want to learn these eight verses with us, sign up now at Do Not Depart.

You’ll receive an email with links to downloadable resources, plus a short weekly email reminder of the verse of the week for the next six weeks.

Here’s the schedule.


* * *

Do you have a favorite memory verse? Which Psalm is your favorite? Please share in the comments.



Catch the Story – My One Word 2017

“It’s like everyone tells a story about themselves inside their own head. Always. All the time. That story makes you what you are. We build ourselves out of that story.”
― Patrick Rothfuss

We all love a good story.

Whether it be in person, on a screen, or on paper, we are drawn to stories.

How Will You Frame the Story?

I stayed in the background of this story a few weeks ago, but it left me changed:

“Shop with a Hero” was the setting. At-risk children in our community were hand-picked to be taken to a local Walmart store on this Saturday morning. Once there, they would be paired with a local “hero,” one of our first responders or educators or community leaders or military personnel. Together, the duo would shop together with a $100 gift card that had been donated to each child for Christmas from area churches and businesses.


Non-hero support personnel like me were only there to hang back with the parents, making sure they didn’t interfere too much with the child and hero’s time together.

The first set of heroes and family I followed was a 6 year-old African-American boy and the hero, an African-American police officer, decked out impressively in full uniform. Even before they were paired, the boy spotted the officer and ran over to hang on his leg. The officer laughed and said that decided it; they would shop together.

As they pushed their shopping cart through the aisles, I chatted with the boy’s mom but also listened to the boy and the officer. The boy was quiet, apparently overwhelmed at his choices for purchase.

But one by one, he began picking out items to buy. And I noticed a theme: toy guns.

Oh, no. That was my first thought. Here’s this child picking out gifts that will make him a criminal. What will the officer have to say?

But here’s what surprised me: The officer laughed and said, “Good! You’re going to make a fine police officer one day!”

I inwardly cringed at my initial bias. I hadn’t even considered this angle about boys and guns.

I liked the officer’s framing of the story much better than my own.

Your Stories Matter

The way we narrate our stories is important. The stories we tell ourselves about our lives matter. They are how we assign meaning to the events of our days.

“The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no?
Doesn’t that make life a story?”
– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

Jesus used stories. He could move an audience from here to there with a story.

He still does.

And not just with stories we read in the Bible. But stories in our current times. The stories we lived through yesterday. The stories we’re walking in right now.

One Word 2017: Story

For 2017, I’m choosing “Story” as my One Word.


I want to notice and share the chain of events that make up our stories, sacred narratives that help us understand each other more clearly.

“Tell me the facts and I’ll learn. Tell me the truth and I’ll believe. But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”
– Native American proverb

I’m using the StoryCorps free app to help me. It’s a way to record and keep conversations with those you love. The app suggests great questions or you can use your own.


I’ve already uploaded four casual interviews that we recorded over the Christmas break between family members, including a spontaneous interview with my youngest daughter Jenna here.

I invite you to uncover stories around you as well this year. Capture them. Connect through them.

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive.
– Barry Lopez

When we don’t hear the stories, we can judge each wrongly, harshly. Getting the stories wrong leads to misunderstandings.

But when we listen, investigate, go deeper, asking why and what and how, we get more than the facts; we get another piece of the image of God.

We learn to read what the Author has already begun writing. We witness to his work in each person’s life.

Let’s keep the stories coming . . .

* * *

Whose story do you want to know better this year? How can you make that happen? Have you chosen One Word for 2017? Please share in the comments.

Watch this TED talk from the originator of StoryCorps, Dave Isay. “Everyone around you has a story the world needs to hear.” Or subscribe to NPR’s StoryCorps podcast here.


Links, Books, and Other Things I Love – January 2017

Here are favorites from December and what I’m looking forward to in January of this new year! We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday 

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

~ * ~ * ~

Around the Web

• Proof that life is getting better for humanity, in 5 charts
Updated by Max Roser
While some think the world is getting worse, lots of things are much better.


• What House Guests REALLY Notice When They Visit
by Dabney Drake
“There’s really only a short list of things that really truly make a difference to your guests. Nail these things down and you guarantee a good visit every time.”

New Poll Reveals Most Annoying Word to Americans
Of these 5 words, which is the most annoying to you?
Whatever. No offense, but… Ya know, right.  I can’t even. Huge.

• 11 Everyday Items You Should Stop Using Right Now
Uh oh. I don’t use coffee pods, but I do use several of these other things.


~ * ~ * ~

On Reading

• Still Puzzled By The Election? Authors Prescribe Fiction For Better Understanding
“In part, working-class anger is said to have fueled Trump’s victory; and to understand where that anger is coming from, some people are turning to books.”


“Anger isn’t something that is solely a rural, American, white guy emotion,” says novelist Nickolas Butler. He and Jennifer Haigh recommend books about a range of American experiences. NPR

6 Books that Will Change the Way You See the World
My friend Ashley sent me this list from Relevant Magazine. “Here’s a look at six books about poverty, injustice, faith, the criminal justice system and human rights that will change the way you see major issues, and provide insight in how to effect them.”

• 20 Life-Changing Nonfiction Books You Can Finish in a Day
This isn’t a new list, but I want to use it this year. From Modern Mrs. Darcy.

6 Books I Recommend
Books from my December reading


My Top 10 Fiction and Nonfiction Books from 2016
It’s always hard to narrow this list down, but here it is.


• Currently Reading

  1. The Colors of Hope
    Becoming People of Mercy, Justice, and Love

    by Richard Dahlstrom
  2. Reading Your Life’s Story
    An Invitation to Spiritual Mentoring

    by Keith R. Anderson
  3. Wherever You Go, There You Are
    by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  4. Fervent
    A Woman’s Battle Plan to Serious, Specific and Strategic Prayer
    by Priscilla Shirer

~ * ~ * ~

Things I Love

 More Wedding Pictures!
The pictures from Jenna and Trey’s October wedding were all posted last week! Here are a few of my favorites.


Trey and Jenna, October 2, 2016



Instead of flower girls, Jenna and Trey had their grandmothers hand out flowers



So happy for my beautiful baby girl



A perk of weddings is getting great family photos. My first-born beauty Morgan and her husband Fuller



She’ll always be Daddy’s little girl



Heading off for life’s adventures

2017 Bible Verse Challenge
Today we are beginning a new memory challenge. Take six weeks and memorize Psalm 121 with us at Do Not Depart. Sign up here.


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On the Blog

• Did Your 2016 Problems Go Away?
What problems did you start the year with? Did they go away? Have you encountered grace along the way?

• Do You Have a Word and An Audience? 
I check the pockets before I put my shorts in the washer. I find words. Everybody has a word. Speak one. Hear one. Be a witness.

• Listen for the Other – Five Favorites of 2016 
We are a divided nation in more ways than we realized. The first step toward healing? Listen more.

• People We Lost in 2016 and Last Words 
We lost a lot of people in 2016. We say thank you.

* * *

What was one of your highlights from 2016? What are you looking forward to in 2017? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

Six Books I Recommend – December 2016

Every month we share what we’ve been reading at Jennifer’s.

This month I also shared my Top 10 Nonfiction (and Fiction) Books of 2016.

I didn’t complete my 2016 Reading Challenges this year, but I got close enough. I stopped reading some picks out of boredom, I couldn’t find others at the library, and I discovered many more books that I did want to read instead, especially books published in 2016.

For 2017? I’ll likely skip a year of reading challenges and  instead read books off my Kindle and interesting library finds.

For December, here are six books that I recommend and why.



1. Tribe
On Homecoming and Belonging

by Sebastian Junger


We all need to belong. Junger looks at soldiers returning from war and others who have known, then not known community, and the effects it has on us.

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary. Modern society has perfected the art of making people not feel necessary. It’s time for that to end.”

2. The Great Spiritual Migration
How the World’s Largest Religion Is Seeking a Better Way to Be Christian
by Brian D. McLaren


My book review here

McLaren wants to see the church continue to move forward, not grow stagnant. He presents some encouraging challenges for the church in this book.

“Repeating sixth grade six more times won’t teach you what you’ll learn in seventh through twelfth grades, so it’s time now to grow up and move on in liberation.”

3. 7 Days of Soul Care
A Guide to Letting God Do the Extraordinary with Your Ordinary
by Dolly M. Lee


My book review here

Who doesn’t need to take better care of their soul? Dolly walks us through a seven-day journey of personal stories, scriptures, journal questions, and prayers to help us better connect with God.

“Every act you do with our extraordinary God isn’t ordinary— it’s exceptional because it is infused with his holy presence.”


4. A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman


I almost stopped reading this book after 50 pages because it was slow. I’m glad I didn’t. Although it appears to be a simple story of a grumpy old man and his interactions, you realize it’s much more as Backman unveils the backstory of Ove’s life.

5. The Sparrow
by Mary Doria Russell


This novel was written in 1997 and set in 2019 and beyond (which made it interesting to see what they incorrectly predicted for us). In a very mysterious plot, the story unfolds about a Jesuit priest and his companions who travel to a newly-discovered inhabited planet. There is a sequel, Children of God, that I hope to read in 2017.

6. The Prophet
by Kahlil Gibran


This re-read of Gibran’s poetry was equally as good as the first time I read it. Originally published in 1923, this is a series of spiritual musings by a fictional prophet who discusses life with a group of people before he sails home.

“You have been told that, even like a chain, you are as weak as your weakest link. This is but half the truth. You are also as strong as your strongest link.”

Reading Now

  • Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing
    by Jamie Holmes
  • Wherever You Go, There You Are
    by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
    by Daniel J. Levitin
  • The Search for Significance: Seeing Your True Worth through God’s Eyes
    by Robert S. McGee

* * *

What are you reading this month? Please share here.


My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

Listen for the Other – 5 Favorites of 2016


Regardless of who you voted for in November for President, the victory of Donald Trump took most of us by surprise. Many now suggest it’s because we weren’t listening well enough. Underlying anxieties were going unheard.

We are a divided nation in more ways than we realized.

When wounds go undetected and untreated, healing is much harder.

I can’t vouch for the nation’s ears, but I know I personally don’t listen as well as I could.

The first step toward health seems obvious enough, although not easy:

Listen more.

Open our ears to hear. Then other steps will fall into place.

  • Open our hearts to feel.
  • Open our minds to change.
  • Open our hands to love.

When we realize we really don’t know it all, we can learn more. When we understand each other better, we can love more. And when we give attention to the brokenness in others, we can all become more whole.

Looking back through stories I experienced in 2016, here are my favorite five posts about listening for the other. It’s a lesson I need to hear—and more importantly, practice—over and over.

1. God Sends No One Alone

The kindergarteners were enjoying their parents’ attention. Except for this little boy.

He was crying because “My mama didn’t come.”

God Sends No One Alone

2. Do You Believe What They’re Saying? Blacks and Whites in America

What do the statistics tell us? That white Christians need to be listening much closer to their black brothers and sisters. And believing what they say.

Let’s do better at hearing each others’ stories and believing what we hear.

Do you believe what they’re saying? Blacks and whites in America

3. Who will be your divine encounter?

Whether it’s one encounter in a lifetime or three times in one day, God places the right people in our paths for his purposes.

When God wants our paths to cross, he can make it happen.

Who will be your divine encounter?

4. Were They Really the “Good Old Days”? Depends on Who You Ask

When we talk about the “good old days,” how accurate are we? Maybe it depends on who you were in those days.

Not everyone agrees that America used to be a more moral country; book quotes from Between the World and Me.

Were They Really the “Good Old Days”? Depends on Who You Ask

5. No Pride in Giving, No Shame in Taking

The line Saturday morning was long and talkative. When we have, we give. And when we need, we receive.

There should be no pride or shame on either end.

No Pride in Giving, No Shame in Taking

And a few more posts that made me rethink some things during the year.

But the thing about helping others is we don’t always get to match our skills with their needs. Our perfectionism can become their roadblock.

Benefits from doing something imperfectly (including face painting) instead of saying no.

Will I ever see these kids again? I want to have hope that their lives will turn out good. But will they?

I want these Kindergarten students to make it; will I keep praying they will?

If we do all the “right” things, is it guaranteed we’ll raise godly children?

Pray for help to be a godly parent.

Who in your life needs to be shown some dignity today? No one deserves to be humiliated. How we treat others reveals who we are ourselves.

Book quotes from Writing My Wrongs.

We rarely know where we will die. Joy thought she would die in the tornado Thursday night as it ripped through her neighborhood.

Welcoming gratitude in a crisis is a choice.

* * *

What voice did you hear in a fresh way this year? Did you have to learn some new things, too? Please share in the comments.

People We Lost in 2016 and Last Words


photo from

We lost a lot of people this year.

  • Space pioneer John Glenn (95)
  • Singers David Bowie (69), Prince (57), Glenn Frey (67)
  • Boxing legend Muhammad Ali (74)
  • Writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel (87)
  • Actors Gene Wilder (83), Florence Henderson (82), Alan Rickman (69), Alan Thicke (69)
  • Former First Lady Nancy Reagan (94)
  • Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (79)
  • PBS Newscaster Gwen Ifill (61)

Plus many more. People you know. People I know.

Just last week, three people died where Kay and I deliver meals, one of them a dear lady to us and her little dog Tiger.

I didn’t get to say final words to any of them.

Or hear their final words.

It’s been three years since one of my favorite authors died: Dallas Willard (77).

His words weren’t to be read lightly or quickly. His words took time to sink in.


Even if you haven’t read Dallas Willard’s books yourself, you’ve likely been influenced by them through someone else who has.

His books on spiritual formation have been some of my favorites: The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, The Spirit of the Disciplines, The Great Omission.

Willard sent a clear and consistent message in all his writings:

  • Our kingdom life has begun now.
  • Be an active disciple of Jesus Christ.
  • Deep soul transformation is possible, if pursued, because Christ is with us.

After a battle with cancer, Willard’s last words were reported to have been, “Thank you.”

What a testimony to a life of worship.

To all those we’ve lost this year, we say, “Thank you.” To them. To God.

“Thank you” are always beautiful words: first, last, and always.


16 Notable People Who Died in 2016, CNN

* * *

Have you lost someone this year, too? Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

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