JoySorrow and HOPE, bright hope

Christmas celebrations can’t be over in just one day.


Over each meal, we light the advent candlesIMG_20171224_175501039.jpg, last night with my extended family who have been arriving for New Years. While we enjoy hugs, reuniting, and good meals, there are two noticeable absences: my rambunctious, brother-in-law Ozzie died suddenly in May and my older brother and his wife have split.

We acknowledge Ozzie with stories. “He’d totally make fun of you, Troy, for wearing a hat and jacket inside, ‘Ready for an expedition, Nanook?'” I wish we could imitate his laugh. We look at videos from his grandkids, from the moments he would have loved: Davis’ big wipeout while tubing off a jump and Lincoln’s first bday pics.

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Our brave friend Lara Hauser, who is a young widow and wonderful mom of four, calls life’s ongoing mix of joy and grief “JoySorrow.” So we tell JoySorrow stories and laugh and cry: at Ozzie’s favorite strategy for staying warm nicknamed “three violent jerks,”  at what Christmas has felt like without him for Tam.

We brainstorm a strategy together for introducing 6-year-old Brantley from Florida to snow in the frigid week ahead, “Snow is fun. Cold means fun.” Then cousin Mark calls in from Minnesota, “Toughen him up. Tell him there are no whiners in the North.” If only that was true! We are ready to embrace “BBob”–as the teenaged cousins call him–and his dad in the week ahead with warm love amidst subzero wind chillsand subzero life chills.

This month as I led a congregation through Advent, we realized that God’s big plan to save the world begins with a knocked-up teen and her finance’s considering divorce. With Jesus, born in animal shed, who became a refugee. With foreigners and shepherds who pay attention and look up to see what God is doing through stars and angelic announcements. God works through all these out-of-the-way people in out-of-the-way places to “bring good news of great joy that shall be for all people.” The gospel story certainly relates to life today in our topsy-turvy times.  Cary Nieuwhof writes,

“What if your  imperfect Christmas is actually a front row seat to God’s grace?….The surprise of Christmas is this: it speaks to us in our weakness even more than it speaks to us in our strength.”

This is how our family life looks right now. This is how our ongoing celebration of Christmas seeps into its grief and reality with hope and love.

As a gift, I give you the words our family has said together since the kids were small as we light our advent candles:

Light the 1st Candle—Purple:

Jesus is our HOPE. Bright HOPE. Stars in the darkness.

Light the 2nd Candle—Blue:

Jesus is our HOPE for PEACE, Kind PEACE. Bridges over broken places.

Light the 3rd Candle—Pink:

Jesus is our JOY. Great JOY. Good news that changes lives.

Light the 4th Candle—Purple:

Jesus is our LOVE. LOVE for everybody. LOVE. There is nothing greater.


Jesus shines in the darkness, Making it LIGHT. Showing us the way to new life, the greatest gift of all.


Daring prayers and unexpected miracles

Last month we prayed daring prayers for every cell in Bill’s body to come alive with God’s glory and heal.  We asked our faith communities to pray daring prayers along with our family.

Faithful believers by the thousands from around the world joined our voices asking God for miracle after miracle for my brother-in-law Bill Ostlund. For five days we all prayed without ceasing for “Ozzie” after an unholy storm of complications from minor cancer, chemo, and norovirus caused him to crash and suffer two heart attacks. We thank you.

At the Sisters of Mercy Convent in St. Louis, a sign reads, “Worry is like praying for what you don’t want to happen.” We visualized and prayed for God’s healing power to be at work and for Ozzie to walk out of that hospital to play with his grandkids. Were those prayers wasted?

Turns out our daring prayers for a miracle were already answered, though we did not know it, and not as we pictured. Bill was already alive to God’s glory, already in God’s presence in eternity. God is mysterious in His mercies, which are new every morning, a constant surprise to us. We were the ones who had to catch up. To sob together. To let go. To open our eyes to the unwished-for miracles.

Bill’s favorite movie was Miracle on Ice. He loved spouting forth Herb Brook’s locker room speech. Bill was a bundle of action and energy, of love for Jesus, and joy and fun that grabbed ahold of anyone nearby. Devastating to us, Bill didn’t get the win we hoped for. He got a different miracle. Over time, maybe we will see the miracle that we, too, have been given through our showing up for Bill’s last days.

Maybe the miracle after miracle is how Bill and Tami’s best friends drew together, to hope and pray, and then grieve together. Maybe the miracle is what Bill’s incredible nurse Greta told us on behalf of the staff, “We’ve never seen such love.” Maybe the miracle is in bonding across our family generations, by rocking baby Lincoln to sleep and doing a hundred “hokey pokeys” with two-year-old Davis and checking in with their parents. Maybe the miracle is in the 800+ people gathered to celebrate Bill’s life, many college-aged or millennial who knew him through Young Life. Maybe the miracle is how Bill’s kids Ellen and Mark spoke bravely and with gratitude of the impact their dad had on them. Maybe the miracle is how all who came listened attentively to the Gospel, hearing one more challenge from this joyful, goofy hockey player, husband, dad, brother-in-law, and friend: “Keep it simple. Show up. Go to the hard places. Be joyful and play. Love Jesus. Love people.”

Maybe the miracle was watching my grieving sister Tami walk around the reception afterwards, bringing grace-filled messages of love and encouragement to so many, telling them how much they meant to Bill. He had a huge capacity to love and bring out the best in people. No one was too far away from Ozzie’s winsome outreach or contagious, “possibilities” thinking. Dang it if Oz didn’t propose that I start up a new church during our last conversation. “Make something happen, Tass. No sitting on the sidelines.”

Maybe the miracle is how Bill joined our family when I was 12. Oz was the epicenter of nearly every fun, crazy, adventurous shenanigan we have ever done in love. We grew up together, and somehow Oz stayed a kid at heart. Bill wasn’t afraid of conflict or the “hard places.” He modeled following Jesus to me. Always.

We met surgeon Tom Blee at Bill’s bedside in the ICU at Regions Hospital in St Paul. Dr. Tom urged us to pray fervently for Bill even though his situation was dire and growing worse day by day. Tom encouraged us that he had seen incredible miracles take place in that hospital and that the staff would join us in praying. My family began to look for God’s hope in new ways, even as Bill died. We do rejoice in his healing in heaven even as we grieve deeply. Words can’t touch how we miss him.

Dr. Tom gave us his book How to Save a Surgeon: Stories of Impossible Healing. He writes,

When God gets involved, healing moves beyond what we could orchestrate. It can be surprising, even weird. [God] says “Your sick family member will be healed I guarantee it. She might have to die first. But no matter what, I’ve got her. And I promise no more tears, no more pain. No more grief.” Our ultimate healing might have to wait until eternity, but still God gives us these surprises, these ripples of healing that touch everyone near…family members… nurses. The healing in these lives will ripple out, touching dozens, passing through families and communities until hundreds are made more whole. Impossible healing may not be on our timeline and it might not be the sound and light show we expect, but it will often expand out into something bigger—and more glorious-—than we would have ever imagined.[1]

We are still awaiting the stories to come of those healing ripples. The next day, Tami’s dear friend Debbie Burns posted on facebook,

unspecified“Day 1 of the Bill “Ozzie” Ostlund challenge for the rest of your life:

  1. Love Jesus
  2. Love people

It IS that simple, people. Billy O. modeled this every day of his full, but too brief, time with us. Let’s strive to follow his lead❤️ ”


In another unexpected twist, one of my best friends Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer last month, while praying for Ozzie and for my family. She told me she has these words from Tim Keller written in her Bible, “Worry is not trusting God to get it right. Bitterness is deciding God got it wrong.”

So we wait, hoping to get a glimpse at how God “gets it right” in this tragedy–and in all our tragedies, really. Instead of worrying, we can continue to pray daring prayers for those around us. However God’s unexpected miracles unfold–for my family, for Sarah, for you in your life–we will have front row seats to see what God is gonna do next.

“Keep it simple. Show up. Go to the hard places. Be joyful and play. Love Jesus. Love people.”–Bill Ostlund

I close with same words we used to close out Bill’s funeral: the benediction always given by the former Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, Richard Halverson,

You go nowhere by accident.
Wherever you go,
God is sending you.
Wherever you are,
God has put you there.
God has a purpose
in your being there.
Christ lives in you
and has something
he wants to do
through you where you are.
Believe this and go in the
grace and love and
power of Jesus Christ.





[1] Tom Blee, How to Save a Surgeon: Stories of Impossible Healing, (Minneapolis, MN: 9Foot Voice, 2016), p. 45-46.

Freezing Frogs and Sunday Hope

In oversize puddles and wetlands, my sister and I stalked amphibians to see if we could spot with our own eyes what was chirping the oversize chorus. Nope. Each time we got close to water’s edge, one frog stopped singing and another started just a few feet further away, playing hide and seek with us while singing an impressive chorus. We imagined their creature-from-the-black-lagoon plotting, “I think I can take the shorty, but the ginger target looks tastier.”  Wonder and giggles make good stress relievers.

Don’t we all need a place to go, to run or walk out our thoughts in our mixed-up, “manic Monday” world? To pace out our problems on our worst days, “Yeah, it’s finally Friday, but–dang it–I didn’t solve that yet. And I didn’t even come close to meeting my goals for the week.” Stress, stress, stress might tempt us to spend even more time at our computers. Nope. Add arrows to your Bullet Journal to move the task to next week. Not all change depends on you or your own efforts. Head outside!

“Don’t believe things can change? Just look at Palm Sunday — to Good Friday — to Resurrection Sunday. Always believe, always keep hoping — things can change.”

–Ann Voskamp

IMG_20170314_143618495When I’m frustrated, I walk the 3 1/2-mile Deer Grove East prairie path, several times a week. Sometimes with my brother and his bite-sized dog Samson. Always windy, rarely crowded, a great place to watch clouds and view the whole horizon. (Translation: no hills … or any feature, really … to distract from the sky and my steps.)

It seems I walk much faster on a warm March day (inspired by the name of the month?), but it’s in contrast with whistling headwinds that slow me down in blustery February.

Friday I walked with my sister Tami. We hashed over our family’s issues along the way, and lost–and found–her glove, but no solutions. And we stalked frogs as tiny as a fingertip. Visiting from Minnesota, she kept commenting on the uninterrupted green-grass vista and buds on the trees. Not spring in Minnesota yet.

Walking on a Friday brings me hope even when there’s no real reason. Nothing’s actually gotten better … yet. But I stop my striving and put the week to rest. I walk my way into weekend mode. I look forward to Sunday.

Monday I walked again,  alone this time, hurrying to complete my lap before a hailstorm rolled in. Almost back to the car, I nearly missed it — and it changed everything. How? “Pop,”a tree burst into full white bloom. Spring hope, there before me.


Lovely tree along my walk route that burst into flower between Friday and Monday.

In the midst of the still winter-bare woods, a tree dressed fully in spring splendor.  Over the weekend, life found a way. While I was resting, watching movies, cheering at 12 PHS volleyball games, talking with two friends in marriage crunches. While I was worshiping and waving palm branches at church, God was re-creating his world. And hopefully, recreating me.

That Friday my sister and I talked through my ministry “do-over” options, brainstorming a possible shift from the church world back into non-profit leadership. My dining table was piled with 50+index cards listing my transferable skills in sharpie-blue. It’s uplifting as spring to have a sister you trust and who loves you look at your bold bucket of skills and say, “Yes! You’d be great at this            !”

Even without my sister to cheer me on, Monday felt better, with Sunday’s lingering hope. Monday brought morning sun and lemon daffodils popping open in the backyard, but quickly turned to holy hailstones crashing down from the heavens. During the storm, I boldly sent out my revamped, skill-focused resumes. Talked with a potential church employer about a fresh ministry area. Wrote a new article assigned to me by a magazine editor. Sunday hope carried over into my manic Monday.

I finally googled those crazy, chirping amphibians my sister and I had chased. “Chorus frogs”, they are called: locally, Western chorus frogs, and where I used to live, Northeast spring peepers.

The amazing thing I learned is these tiny hoppers can survive being frozen alive. These daring frogs come out of hibernation early, and when the temperature drops again, no problem. When the first ice crystals form, their livers quickly rush sugary anti-freeze throughout their bodies to protect their organs.

It all looks impossible on Friday, doesn’t it? With the chanting crowds, the darkened sky, and and Jesus’ being nailed to a cross?

It looks impossibly bad, yet we call it “good,” for God’s actions that Friday change everything. God means us to live in close relationship with Jesus and with others. Forgiven and forgiving. Redeemed and freed from “the sin that so easily entangles.” Jesus’ Friday death on that cross and his Sunday resurrection change everything. Jesus saves us. Unfreezes us. Brings hope and Spring to our wintery souls.

Turns out that none of what we need most depends on us, on any day of the week. It all dhqdefault.jpgepends on Jesus, on a cross, on an empty tomb. That’s Sunday hope on a Friday.



Thanks for inspiration to Jon Acuff’s helpfully entertaining book Do-Over.

Aatish Bhatia, “What’s making this strange chirping noise?” (accessed 4/11/17).

Ann Voskamp, “When you’re kinda struggling through holy week–and don’t feel holy at all” (accessed 4/11/17).













Kids + Life = Surprise!

Anything shock you lately? Surprise your socks off? Blue hair might fall in that category….

Before we were even dating, my husband Ken asked me to throw him a surprise 30th birthday party. “Um, if you’re expecting the party, how do I surprise … oh, never mind. Sounds like a fun challenge.” It turned out to be a great gathering of friends. He’s asked me to throw him a surprise party every 5th year since: a tacky tourist party, a micro-brew hangout, a 70’s bash, a family scavenger hunt, and a church-wide mission project. Each an extrovert’s delight.

Not all kid surprises equal good parental surprises though. Like the baby blowouts that necessitated “Mr. Clean” Ken’s changing Carlina’s clothes three times in a row in his first hour of singlehandedly caring for her. An unshakeable father-daughter bond formed that messy summer. While Ken was relieved and delighted to start teaching again in fall, he wouldn’t trade those early months together for anything. Such love surprised him. Bad beginning, good ending, paying dividends for the last eighteen years and counting.  All of which paved the way for our recently-applauded, “chill response” to Carlina’s post-Christmas, blue hair. Surprise!

It doesn’t always work that way. In our house with two students flexing their independence and two parents dealing with new jobs, right now there are not enough “chill responses” to go around. Exhaustion. Impatience. Anger. Fear. Stress. Change. Overwork. These factors eat fun for lunch–or dinner–no matter what age your kids are.

Even the good intentions of a surprise–a mother’s day dinner out–predictably went awry with our two and six-year-old, devolving into an overpriced whine-fest. (p.s. Don’t ever recap such an event by saying, “No biggie; I’ve finally lowered my expectations enough, so I thought it was a good Mother’s day anyway.” Do not speak such exhausted mama-truth to your earnest husband. Don’t even think it loudly.)  I frequently say the wrong thing at the right time.

John Lennon said, “Life is what happens to you when you’re on your way to somewhere else.” Kids+ Life = “Surprise!” What about receiving the late night phone call every parent of a teen driver dreads? Finding a wadded-up, lousy report card? Discovering your kid is being bullied by classmates … or doing the bullying? Rushing to the ER, triggering a chain of medical treatments? Facing student depression and/or struggling with disorders?

Anytime a kid starts a pronouncement, “I’ve got something to tell you, Mom. Don’t get mad, but _____,” what comes next will in all likelihood be life-changing: “I lost my _____.” Or, “I missed the _____, but hit a _____.” Or,”I’m _____.”Or, I tried my best, but _____.” Or, meet my new _____.” Surprise!

As a family minister, my conversations often begin when your difficult family conversations end. Though it seems students never put down their devices, our kids are watching us sideways and listening closely to how we respond to “Surprise!”

And I’m not talking about blue hair here, which obviously grows out. I’m thinking about the biggies. In fact, such disasters and follow-up conversations are so predictable with teens that a wise parent brainstorms or role-plays in advance how to respond–sidestepping anger and reaching up for God’s love, mercy, and  grace. With discipline as needed. But not until the next day.

Our words matter. Most of us are not good at thinking on our feet and responding quickly with kindness or love. Then we replay these hard conversations over and over in the middle of the night. I know I need practice being calm & gracious, how about you?

Truth be told, these conversations with students never really end. They just begin a new series of discussions. A student recently tweeted, “The problem lies not in what we say, but in what we do not say.” Can we plan ahead for what we might say–and what we promise ourselves and those we love we will not say?

At Families@Five, a worship service for young families at Second Church Indy, we prayed a simple prayer together to confess our sins every week, followed by our assurance of pardon, “Turn and look someone in the eye and say to them, ‘Jesus loves you no matter what.'”

How can we say that in the face of “Surprise?” How can we respond with God’s-no-matter-what-love, “Nothing you can do can make us love you more and nothing you can do can make us love you less. Your life might get harder, but we’ll love you through it.”

Revelation 21:3-6 gives us a clear, beautiful picture of Jesus as our starting–and ending–point in conflict and in tough situations.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.

If Jesus is with us, if we are his people, and if God himself is with us as our God, then Jesus has got this surprise covered. If Jesus can handle even this surprise from beginning to end,  if Jesus will wipe away every tear and all this pain,if Jesus will make all things new, then we will be ok. More than ok. This situation and we will become new.

“Sure,” you might say, “But what about right now, when life sucks?” What about the time before heaven, this in-between-time, when we have to live the reality of stupid choices, when there’s danger or fall-out, when our kids face tough consequences and life-altering decisions, when we pour out tears and regret?

Or when we’re not ready to move through it yet, but mired in denial, anger, conflict, or stubbornness, and kids are stoney in rebellion or headstrong persistence, a long way from repentance?

Jesus’ promise isn’t for just someday. Jesus is making all things new right now.

Jesus doesn’t give up when it gets hard, or when we mess up, or when we stink at forgiving, or when we say the worst possible things at the worst possible time. Jesus doesn’t wait on us to parent well or to get our stuff together to begin working in the situation, and Jesus doesn’t wait for our kids to realize the error of their ways. Jesus’ work in us and in our kids is not over when we fail. Hear Philippians 1:6, “[I am] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Even in the now, we can ask for the Spirit to help us love with Jesus’ love, in small ways immediately. We can take one step toward giving mercy with Jesus’ mercy and forgiving with Jesus’ forgiveness. We can be ready for the new, even when it is painful in the now and in the days to come. Jesus has already redeemed us and already redeemed even this situation. It is already accomplished, not by us, but by God. It begins and ends with Jesus: “These words are trustworthy and true. And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.”

We can respond to our kids with what we all long to hear,”We love you. We’re in this together. And God is in this. God is for you.” Surprise!


For excellent ideas on praying for your family, see Cindi McMenamin’s article (accessed 1/27/17).

Stuck? Throw an “Inch Pebble” Party

Doesn’t fb really stand for “family bragging?” Posts like: “Look at the clever Halloween costumes we made” (with help from a professional makeup artist and the costumer from Lion King?) 14639899_10153984291182918_8499421417956026212_n “My quarterback son just cured cancer during halftime of his Homecoming football game,” or “We— I mean–my daughter won the science fair blue ribbon.”

Am I the only one overwhelmed by parenting my kids, let alone comparing myself to other, overachiever families? (Just because I can’t get my act together to post fb pictures doesn’t mean we’re not having jaw-dropping, creative, family fun–it means you don’t have a good enough imagination.)

We all set basic goals for our kids’ growth (i.e .learning how to use a fork and knife). We help them practice skills and hone talents (not including how to armpit fart–boys teach that to each other.) We help them make mid-course corrections in order to become responsible citizens of the world. (“When you earn a D on your report card, no one but you think that means ‘I have a crappy history teacher.’ The rest of the world thinks, ‘He didn’t do the work.'”) And as families, we get stuck sometimes.

For ministry training this week, I’ve been reading an excellent book called Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. aclkNot a church-y book, a business book. It covers how to build hope and create forward momentum, even how to make big changes through asking people to take incremental, easily do-able steps. Applicable to get your teen to clean a room, to pay off your enormous college debt, or change that most stubborn behavior.

Good points of the book are: 1) motivate rather than impose change by following the bright spots, 2) build on what’s going well, 3) make it easy to change right now by setting a clear path.

Aiming for your child to be successful in milestones (straight As on the report card or making the A team) is too overwhelming. Heath says to break it down even further. He writes,

piled-smooth-gray-pebbles-3836837Aim for family “inch pebbles.”

Especially for our kids, we might take the time to shrink the problem to what is doable NOW, one inch at a time. OR we can grow our kids by motivating and helping them really want to move the next pebble (celebrations,  vision casting, bribes all help build new pebble-moving habits). Create a path out of “stuck” by providing positive, actionable clarity. Heath says it works better every time than loud, parental “no’s” or even our best, can-do speeches.

It’s as if we flipped the switch on our kids–we suddenly move the pebble forward the next inch in the next five minutes. Worth throwing a party? Yes.

Takin’ Risks & Prayin’ Moonshine

On our road trip to our daughter’s southern college,20160819_124530 we talked for miles about change and fear— (and what exactly is Moonshine anyway? Didja know it’s also “foolish talk or ideas?” The McCoy version of talkin’ smack? Didja know they’re called the Smoky Mountains because fog in the hills looks smoky,20160819_195739 not because Smokey the Bear lives there? Revelation. We clueless Yankees crossed into southern territory, dumbfounded by places where every word is drawled, like the town proudly proclaimed on its water tower as “Florence, KY Ya’ll.”  And then Rockytop, TN. We trolled my siblings, singing “Rockytop” over and over. Sorry. Not Sorry. But I digress.)

For fun, we brainstormed silly conversation openers, pick-up lines, and ways to make new friends for each of us who’ve moved this summer. Which new activities to try. Yes, and which maybe not to try. (I’m both a mom and a minister, after all.) Remember this is the girl who went paraglidingscreenshot-2016-09-14-15-16-49 in Argentina this summer.  Jumped off a mountain with a parachute for Pete’s sake.) Anyhoo, during freshman orientation, Carlina tweeted:

Aug 27 that moment between taking a risk and seeing if it pays off or blows up in your face. that. 1 RETWEET 2 LIKES

Yes, that. A leap of faith. Restlessness. Passion. Optimism. On the verge. In a liminal space. Hope-filled. Moving forward. In transition. All those phrases suggest you are taking a risk and opening up your life into a new season of change. Call it whatever you wish, for many of us change is spelled:


For some of us, that moment sss-tttt-rrrrrr-eeee-tch-eeees and sss-tttt-rrrrrr-eeee-tch-eeees out some more. I know it. I’ve read books about it. I’ve coached others through that season, asking them questions, “What one hopeful step can you take today? How can you use this in-between-time for growth? What great, big, God-sized dreams are you praying for?”

Mmm hmmm. “One hopeful step.” Sounds great to say TO SOMEONE ELSE! Even though I’ve lived it before. Six cross-country moves. Three career changes. Eight job changes.  A few years ago we accidentally turned into that family that moves a lot.  I now have several “interim” job titles on my resume to explain. But not anymore, right? We’re done. Settled. Let’s hope. Except that we follow “One who is notoriously unpredictable,” as Tim Hansel said.

Last time I made a big change from the Midwest to that region-that-must-not-be-named, it stretched into a year of underemployment. Many prayers later, I discovered that God and I do NOT have a special arrangement just because I’m a minister and supposedly follow Him full-time. (I dunno exactly how I wandered into that conclusion before? Hence the “supposedly.” #heresyalert). No job handed to me with my DMin diploma, either. (Uh Fuller, what WAS that $18,000 and five years good for? “Still waiting….” [Cue the Energizer Bunny.]  “Still waiting….”)

So no God deals for an insta-job. Turns out finding my fit takes time. And stinks. Even this time around, two years and three moves later, two years wiser. I know God is faithful; He’s done it before and can do it again, in my life specifically. Moving here to Chicagoland is but one part of what God’s gonna do next, and we have a front row seat to watch for it. (I hear your voice, Sally Kruse.) And I hear all you Narbs people shouting and jumping up and down, “Yeah, we heard it from YOUR mouth at Thanksgiving last year! ‘God is faithful; He provided us a job and a house and an open door.’ Do you listen to yourself, Pastor Tassie?” Yep, I’m not just talkin’ moonshine.

I’m trying to wait expectantly, with creativity, hope, and imagination—and all those big words I listed above. Many of you have inspired me with your hunger, passion, patience, and longing for God as you wait for a child or job or a cure or a yes. Thank you for your examples, far, far better than my own words. There’s still room for my great big, God-sized dream. And I also have learned the flip-side: if I want to make God laugh, just tell Him my plans.

How will I wait? I’m doing more praying, that’s for sure. Risking. Taking fruitful actions. Prayer doodling. Leadership brush-up. SWOT analyses. SMART goals. I’m using this time in-between to advance my skills. Reactivate my network. Make connections. Consult with a few churches. And did I mention prayin’ moonshine? Right now I’m praying for an exciting role at the Chapel, overseeing family ministry at eight churches. Or whatever our big God has planned. Please join my prayer posse. And let me know how I can join yours.

Big Lou & the DMV


searchFriends have epic war stories from the Jersey DMV. Waiting for hours only to have the line cut off just before you enter. Penna DMV was a stuffy 30×30 room with 75 customers packed in and 5 grim robots working too hard. “Papers?” Stamp. “Test?” Stamp. “Check?” Stamp. Indiana BMV was the best organized, with wait times posted online for each location.

But “wow,” Illinois DMV does friendly! Today I overheard and oversaw midwest-friendly in all its glory. When I first spotted a smile, my lingering, northeast suspicion popped up, “What’s really going on here? She’s smiling. Is he maybe asking her for a date? Nope. Smiling at the next three people in line, too. For no reason. And, look ! He is, too.” Scanning the room, “Oops, not the door bouncer. Definitely not her. But most. Weird.”patchmania_dmv_inside

All but 3 of the 28 workers, smiling. Some were even kind. Willing to treat people like people. Joking with each other and customers, “Where’s the sausage? I need sausage to work here. Or steak.” “Lou, you already look like you’ve eaten too much steak.”

Even while explaining the same questions over and over. You’d think they’d read Proverbs 15:1, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” The six people who helped me each welcomed me back into town, like extended family I hadn’t yet met. Doug offered to use the picture from my last IL driver’s license–10 years ago. “You look the same. Really. Though your hair is red now?!” Uh, I do have one big question,” he asked, “What’s the deal with Philly Cheesesteaks?  Cheesewhiz? Really?”

When a young woman jitters up to Lou’s counter to apply for her learner’s permit, he plays it tough, “You know, we don’t give these to just anybody.” Blink, blink. “But you, well, since you have such nice handwriting, ok.” Big grin. She grins back.

Lou adds, “I’m really excited you’re here today because we need more good female drivers in Chicago.”

He reassures the next kid, “The test is easy. You’ll do great.”

Lou’s a guy with a mission. Not just pushing people through the process at record speed. Nope. Because frankly, it took  1 1/2 + hours to navigate through 6 lines along with a couple hundred others trying to get our titles, plates, application, vision & written tests and a half-decent photo. My lucky number was #643.

But you know what? I actually didn’t mind. From what I saw and overheard, Lou and the others’ mission was to help their neighbors, not just crank out small laminated cards with bad photos. Even the woman who failed the written test (Tricksy hobbitses! Expecting drivers to recognize stop signs!?) Even she got a comforting word.

At the DMV? Who knew?82b4ca_74911f2d7e6f4f648ac99a9ae22e29a1 I felt good when I walked out, better than when I walked in. Now that’s unexpected.

Maybe I should stop by  the DMV for a pep talk before my  job interview next Wednesday. If that Church gig doesn’t pan out, I could apply to work there. Or thinking more postively, take my new family ministry staff on a field trip. If so, maybe I should bring Big Lou some sausage. Widout whiz.