Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Shameless Plug: Madman

For the last few years, I have enjoyed the company of a handful of women writers much more accomplished than I. Collectively, we call each other The Guild. It's been a wonderful experience pooling our thoughts and journeying together through the various stages of the writing process. My friend Tracy has a new book coming out this spring from Moody Press. Madman is a historical novel based on the Gerasene demon-possessed man described in Mark 5.

In addition to having an uber-cool cover, I love the way Tracy bring the biblical landscape to life. My advice: pick up Tracy's first two historical fiction novels, cozy up to a warm fire and get geared up for Madman this spring.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Next?

So I wrote awhile back that WaterBrook reverted rights to Generation Ex back to me. Thanks to all who wrote me with feedback and kind words of support. The next step is simply making time to work on the new proposal so my agent can shop it around. I have a pretty good idea of where it could end up, but alas, I still have to do the hard work of preparing the materials. (Many applications to life in that statement).

One option we're exploring is pitching Generation Ex as a two book deal, meaning GE would be the first book with another related title to follow. I have several ideas based on material that didn't make the first book (My first draft was 225,000 words. Generation Ex was only 60,000 words.) and suggestions from readers.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on these options:

1. Generation Ex and the Quest for Love (or, Getting to I Do After Mom and Dad said I Don't)--focusing on the romance trigger, how to minimize the impact of parental divorce on your own romantic relationships, from dating to marriage.

2. Marrying Generation Ex: this suggestion came from my sister-in-law, who has shared with me the unique challenges someone from an intact home has in marrying into a family affected by divorce.

3. Generation Ex for Teens - When I speak, I briefly talk about the common coping mechanisms that children adopt when dealing with divorce. This book would expand on these ideas.

4. Generation Ex: A Parents Guide - Practical help for parents to minimize the long term effects of divorce on their family

5. Generation Ex Asks Why: answers to the questions most commonly posed by children of divorce, parents, counselors, friends and churches

Most Perfect Love

When I was in college, I was a new Christian and reeling from my mom and stepdad's divorce. Love seemed like a sick joke. As I learned more about my faith, and allowed my heart to heal, a seed of hope took root that someday, I would experience the kind of love that lasts. My prayer partner passed on the following to me, and over the years, I have referred to it, and hoped for it as Proverbs 13:12 came to mind: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

Most Perfect Love
Everyone longs to give themself completely to someone—to have a deep soul relationship with another, to be loved thoroughly and exclusively. But God, to a Christian says, “No, not until you are satisfied with living loved by Me alone. I love you, my child, and until you discover that only in me is your satisfaction, you will not be capable to of the perfect love that I have planned for you. I want you to stop planning, stop wanting and allow me to give you the most thrilling plan existing—one that you cannot imagine. I want you to have the best. Please allow me to bring it to you. Just keep watching me, expecting the greatest things. Keep experiencing that satisfaction knowing that I am. Keep learning and listening to the things I tell you. You must wait. Don't be anxious. Don't worry! Don't look at the things you want. Don't look around at the things others have gotten or that I have given them Just keep looking to me or you'll miss what I want to show you. And then, when you are ready, I'll surprise you with a love far more wonderful than any you would ever dream of. You see, until you are ready—and even to the minute, to have both of you ready at the same time—until you are both satisfied with me and the life I prepared for you, you won't be able to experience the love that exemplifies your relationship with Me and is thus, perfect love. And dear one, I want you to have this wonderful love. I want you to see in the flesh, a picture of your relationship with me and to enjoy the everlasting union of beauty and love. I am God. Believe and be satisfied.
-St. Anthony, 1247.
I am very satisfied with life these days.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Life is good

I haven't been blogging much lately. I have a few things backed up, but for the most part, I've been taking a break from writing and focusing on my offline life. And life is very good.

Hello to my new Ohio friends. Thanks for stopping by. :-)

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's Good To Be Alive

So...God must still have something in store for me...

I've been sick every morning for the last two weeks and thought it was because I'm finally trying to wean off my meds before the 2nd anniversary of my head injury. I just haven't felt well at all. Didn't feel like doing too much but work and sleep the last two weeks so my house was kinda messy. I lit a few candles around the house to mask a weird smell--maybe some lingering food in the garbage. But Thursday I had cleaned up for trash day and it was still a little stinky. When I came home for lunch, I got sick again. When I came back to work and was telling my co-workers they made me call the gas company. They told me to get my dog out of the house and wait for them...and oh, could I be there in five minutes?

When the guy arrived I asked how he'd know if anything was amiss. I was afraid he was just going to tell me I needed to clean my house better! He showed me his detecting wand and said that it would beep if there was gas in the air. The more frequent the beeps, the more gas in the air. We opened the door and...

BEEP! My condo has an open plan so my entry way, dining room kitchen and living room (with 20 ft. ceiling) are all in one big area. He started walking to the kitchen. BEEP....BEEP....BEEP.... then toward the stove...BEEP BEEP BEEP...then to the burner BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP. Apparently when I cleaned my stove dials a few weeks ago, I put one on wrong and turned the lighter flame on. I haven't used the stove since then, so apparently it's been on for two weeks. If I didn't have the cathedral ceilings to dissipate the air, and have been crazy busy (and therefore not at home the last two weeks), the guy said I could have blown up the neighborhood! Yikes! And bionic Bailey cheats death again. I'd like an immune system a quarter of her strength!

Thank You, God, for Your protection.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm headed over to the home of "the family down the street" for this year's Thanksgiving festivities, which have promised to include baking lessons from E-mom. That and a whole lot of lovin' by four adorable kiddos. It's gonna be a good day.

Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of my end of the year reflections and new year resolutions. Thanks to Tracy for finding my song of the year in Sara Grove's "Less Like Scars," from her album, All Right Here.

It's been a hard year
But I'm climbing out of the rubble
These lessons are hard
Healing changes are subtle
But every day it's
Less like tearing, more like building
Less like captive, more like willing
Less like breakdown, more like surrender
Less like haunting, more like remember
And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars and more like
Less like a prison, more like my room
It's less like a casket, more like a womb
Less like dying, more like transcending
Less like fear, less like an ending
And I feel you here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars
Just a little while ago
I couldn't feel the power or the hope
I couldn't cope, I couldn't feel a thing
Just a little while back
I was desperate, broken, laid out, hoping
You would come
And I need you
And I want you here
And I feel you
And I know you're here
And you're picking up the pieces
Forever faithful
It seemed out of my hands, a bad, bad situation
But you are able
And in your hands the pain and hurt
Look less like scars (x3)
And more like

And a few Scriptures to mull over:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.--Romans 5:1-5 (TNIV).

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us--Hebrews 12:1 (TNIV).

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything...Blessed are those who persevere under trial, because when they have stood the test, they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.--James 1:2-4, 12 (TNIV).

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.--2 Peter 1:5-7 (TNIV).

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Book Notes: Sacred Pathways, Introduction

So I've started digging into Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas. If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend it. If you are reading it with me, I encourage you to check out the discussion questions from Gary's website:

My notes from the the introduction (direct quotes in italics):

It is my pleasure to serve as Gary's marketing director. After hosting Gary for the last few days at work, reading his book this time is more like reading a letter from a friend. And the content of this book is exactly what I most need to hear from my friend, as Proverbs 27:17 comes to life: As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. (TNIV). Gary's words are sharpening my ability to connect with God after a season of silence.

* [For those in valley seasons] Their love for God has not dimmed, they’ve just fallen into a soul-numbing rut. Their devotions seem like nothing more than shadows of what they’ve been doing for years…They finally wake up one morning and ask, “Is this really all there is to knowing God?” –p.15

* In fact, by worshiping God according to the way he made us, we are affirming his work as Creator. – p. 18

I love the wide view of worship. I think at times, especially when we are disappointed or disillusioned, it's easy to fall for the temptation that God is mean spirited or spiteful. Sometimes, as we seek His will, we find it hard to believe that God would truly delight in allowing us to delight. We think that if something is enjoying or fulfilling, it must not be God's best because we aren't suffering for Him: this job must not be serving God because I like it, I'm good at it and I'm paid well to do it; maybe this relationship is a distraction because I enjoy it too much. What freedom I find in the knowledge that I can both love God and love what He allows me to experience.

* On historic movements within the church: All four players—Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Anabaptists—were trying to love God, but with unique expressions of that love. Many differences had theological roots, but some were also related to worship preferences. – p.19

It's become to so popular to mock our differences in the church. I'm reminded of a quote by St. Augustine: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, diversity; and in everything, love."

* “doctrinally neutral worship preference” – p. 21

* God has given us different personalities and temperaments. It’s only natural that these differences should be reflected in our worship. – p. 21

* What is a sacred pathway? Put very simply, it describes the way we relate to God, how we draw near to him. Do we have just one pathway? Not necessarily. Most of us, however, will naturally have a certain disposition for relating to God, which is our predominant spiritual temperament. – p. 21-22.

* 9 pathways (2.22-29)
Naturalists: Loving God Out of Doors
Sensates: Loving God with the Senses
Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol
Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity
Activists: Loving God Through Confrontation
Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others
Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration
Contemplative: Loving God Through Adoration
Intellectual: Loving God with the Mind

* If you are in a spiritual malaise, it might be that you just need a change in your spiritual diet. If you just can’t seem to leave that one particular sin, you may find that the answer is very simple: You don’t know how to be nourished according to the way God made you so you’re seeking spiritual “junk food,” in the form of sin or addictions, somewhere else. Finding fulfillment in God is the most powerful antidote to any sin. – p. 30

I'm really looking forward to experimenting with new ways to connect with God. The junk food analogy really makes sense. In the early months of recovery from my head injury I craved beef jerky and peanut butter because my brain needed a lot of protein to heal. Even now, when I am situations that tend to make me sympomatic (traveling, changes in my schedule, stress), I crave steak. I've never thought of my spiritual hunger in the same way.

* According to Jesus, four elements are essential to every true expression of faith. It is essential that we love God with all our heart (adoration), soul (will), mind (belief), and strength (body). The intellectual is not excused from failing to adore. Neither is the contemplative excused from harboring wrong beliefs about God. Complete Christians—which all of us are called to be—should exhibit adoration, belief, commitment, and service. – p. 30-31

This makes a lot of sense. In the same way, each believer has spiritual gifts, but the lack of a particular gift doesn't negate the need to cultivate the character of that gift.

How do we learn to love God, day in and day out, through the seasons of life? How do we keep this love fresh? How do we grow in our adoration and understanding of God. We do it by spending time with him. And once we understand the myriad ways that Christians have cultivated this relationship, we’ll have more ideas than we need to walk closer, and more constantly by his side. - p. 32

One reason I respect Gary's writing is because he has a wonderful way of elevating everyday life into a spiritual discipline. For example, with so many books on marriage or relationships, I think, "this will be helpful if I get married." When I read Sacred Marriage, it was the first book that made me want to get married. It taught me that I could see from the peaks and valleys of my spiritual life than peaks and valleys are to be expected in my emotional life, not only with God, but with my friendships and other relationships. There is great freedom in that understanding. And I am liberated by the truth that even in the silent seasons of my faith, I can strive to learn to recognize different nuances of God's voice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


In the past few weeks, I've had several conversations with friends about connection. Connecting with friends, connecting with friends-with-potential, and most importantly, connecting with God.

I'm coming up on my 15th anniversary in relationship with Christ. For most of those years, I had a "Jesus and me" mentality. Relationships are nice, but I only need, I thought, Christ. And it is true that I could live in solitude and survive just fine, but I don't want just fine. I want God's best.

Back to that in a moment...

The trademarks of my faith have long been the disciplines of faith: daily quiet times, journaling, reading, studying different concepts, terms and words. I felt most intimate with God when I spent time with Him, alone, sharing with Him my most vulnerable thoughts, and quietly listening for Him to direct me to His responses and leadings.

I've mentioned in the past how my head injury has changed me physically and emotionally. And I've touched on how it's changed me spiritually. During those quiet months when I couldn't read, couldn't write, couldn't do, I was forced to learn to just be. The process challenged me to re-evaluate what it meant to be in relationship with God. What if it's not about what I am doing? What if the next season of growth can only come from being? And, the more troublesome question: what if being requires relating to others outside the "Jesus & me" bubble? What if the real challenge in being a Christ follower is putting into practice (good term) all that I learned when I was doing Christ-following things? In my less mature moments, I can rail against God with all of my perceived injustices, but I can do so knowing that I have a wide open invitation to come back to Him with a more contrite heart. There's a safety in being real with God. I know He isn't going to reject me. Unfortunately, I don't have those same assurances with those around me.

The most important lesson I've learned since knockin' my noggin is that I need people, and I especially need them when I can't do for myself what I always have been able to do before. And as a result, my faith, or perhaps more accurately, the application of my faith, is much more evident (or very much not, depending on the moment). So I'm putting myself in more situations to learn to relate well. Results have been mixed. Who knew? I'm a selfish, faulted person. Not an unlovable, unworthy one, but a selfish, faulted person nonetheless.

So what do I do when I find myself in a strange situation? I run to God for guidance. Which has always worked out pretty well in the past. But now, I don't hear Him in the same way. I don't doubt His presence, but I'm just not connecting with Him the way I'm used to. I've been focused on learning about God through relationships. And for the most part, it's been a pretty fruitful, though at times, humbling, endeavor. The problem is, as good as it gets, the worse it has the potential to be. And I made a mistake. I allowed myself to make a frightenly bad decision. I pressured someone I care about to choose me over God. Stupid. The thing that really rocked me is that what I like about this person is the way they desire to make God smile. Why would I want to get in the middle of that? (Did I mention stupid?)

At any rate, it shook me and I've spent quite a bit of time the last few days chatting with God about it. I love to recommend books to encourage the faith of others. And certain books have really resonated with me, so they come up more often. One such book is Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas. The essence of the book is that just as God has created us each uniquely, He has designed in us nine different ways to connect with Him. These nine pathways reflect our personality and preferences, and understanding them can free us meet God as we are, where we are. I recently recommended Sacred Pathways to a friend, but it occurred to me, in light of my own changes, I need to read it again.

Borrowing Bebo

Last weekend at church, the Bebo Norman song "Borrow Mine" was played. It reminded me that I started a post on it back in May. Funny how these things get buried. Reading it today, I realize that I missed an opportunity to meet the need of a friend because I was focused on how that person wasn't able to meet what I thought I needed. I don't know that I can make it right with the person I wronged, but perhaps, though this, it can be redeemed.

May 21, 2005
It was an adventure getting there, but I did make the Bebo Norman, Fernando Ortega, Sara Groves concert on Thursday. After my trip to the ER on Wednesday night, I was still feeling a bit off on Thursday (later I saw that my discharge papers said I shouldn't drive, and should rest for 24 hours...oops!). I did find a co-worker to join me and we made plans to meet at 6:45 a few miles from the venue. The site I looked at had a concert start time of 8pm, so we figured we'd be there at 7 for the meet and greet. When we arrived, the place was PACKED. Alas, the concert started at 7 so we missed saying our hellos. That was a disappointment.

The concert itself did not disappoint. Sara came on first after a very cute introduction from her 4 year old son. She played several favorites, plus a couple songs from a new children's album she recently released. Always great to see a fellow Minnesota native do well. The first time I interviewed her I was struck by how much she reminds me of my best friend, Steph.

I was pleased to see that Bebo still has Gabe Scott playing with him. Gabe is quite possibly the most talented musician I know, not only in how well he plays, but in how many instruments he plays well: guitar, piano, dulcimer, name it, I'm sure he plays it. Some may remember him from his days with Andrew Petersen. He's a Michigan native. One of my favorite music moments ever was a duet between Bebo and Gabe at Hope College maybe 2 years ago. I can't remember the song--a hymn, maybe?--but I had goose bumps the rest of the night.

I was telling my friend that "I am Nothing" was my theme song during my time off last year. That song was my prayer:

Take these hands and lift them up
For I have not the strength to praise You near enough
For I have nothing,
I have nothing without You

Take my voice and pour it out
Let it sing the songs of mercy I have found
For I have nothing,
I have nothing without You

All my soul needs
Is all Your love to cover me
So all the world will see
That I have nothing without You

Take my body and build it up
May it be broken as an offering of love

For I have nothing,
I have nothing without You


I love You
With all my heart
With all my soul
With all my mind
And all the strength I can find


Take my time here on earth
And let it glorify all that You are worth
For I am nothing,
I am nothing,
I am nothing without You

That verse about body really struck close to home. I really do feel that God stripped me from anything and everything I took my identity from. All I had with my relationship with God, and without Him, I was overwhelmed by my nothingness.

I also told my friend that my all time least favorite song was on Bebo's album Try. How it irritated me to no end. And if by cue, Bebo started introducing it. How convicting. The song is called "You Can Borrow Mine." I'll be honest, the past six months have been some of the most difficult since I became a believer 14 years ago, and the first time that I've really questioned my calling. I haven't reached a point of clarity yet and feel left out in the cold. I know, intellectually, that that isn't true. I can read my old journals and see how God uses everything for His good and that He will redeem this season as well. But I do feel utterly raw and bare and lost. I'm in the waiting, and watching good things--things I desire--coming to those around me. I share their joy, but have to guard my heart from jealousy that life is passing me by.

So Bebo tells the story of someone in a similar place, who is comforted by a fellow believer, who essentially says that their belief that God is at work is strong enough to cover the faith of the one is doubting and lost. Theologically, of course, it doesn't mean that the other person's faith assures salvation for their friend, but it does assume a good way. There are times when the fog of emotion (or even a head injury) can prevent someone from seeing the bigger picture. And that's when the comfort of Galatians 6:1-2 comes alive:

Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (TNIV).

A much belated thanks to all who have allowed me to borrow their faith during this season...

You Can Borrow Mine by Bebo Norman

Take my hand and walk with me a while
Cause it seems your smile has left you
And don't give in, when you fall apart
And your broken heart has failed you
I'll set a light up
On a hilltop
To show you my love
For this world to see

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

Take my love when all that you can see
Is the raging sea all around us
And don't give up 'cause I'm not letting go
And the God we know will not fail us
We'll lay it all down
As we call out
Sweet Savior
help our unbelief

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

When you are weak
Unable to speak
You are not alone
The God who has saved us
Will never forsake us
he's coming to take us
Take us to our home

You can borrow mine
When your hope is gone
Borrow mine
When you can't go on
'Cause the world will not defeat you
When we're side by side
When your faith is hard to find
When your faith is hard to find
You can borrow mine

Take my hand
Take my love
Don't give in
Don't give up

Fabulous Fall

This is the fourth fall I've been in my condo. Each year, as the leaves start to turn, I am stunned by the beauty of the tree in front of my place. I may be biased, but I think it is the most amazingly beautiful tree on the street. One of life's simple pleasures, at this stage of life, is coming home to this gorgeous site and realizing that of all the places God could have planted this particular tree, He chose my home.

There's a classic little book by Brother Andrew, called Practicing the Presence of God. The main idea is that we can strive to live our lives mindful each moment of God's participation with us. This tree is my remembrance tree.

God of Second Chances

In the new classic movie You've Got Mail (a remake of an old classic, Shop Around the Corner), Tom Hanks' character tells Meg Ryan's character that everything in life has a link to a line in The Godfather triology. In my life, music trumps movies, and the musician whose lyrics link to everything else, for me, is Bebo Norman.

The song currently playing on the soundtrack of my life is "A Page is Turned." The song is not so much fitting for the implications of romance referred to in the song (sadly, it seems I need more than two chances), but for the reminder that God is always in the business of redemption. I love the promise that someday, my day will come.

A Page Is Turned

A page is turned by the wind to a boy in curly grin
With a world to conquer at the age of ten
But as history unfolds and the storybook is told
He finds salvation but not at the hands of man
And the God of second chance
Picked him up and He let him dance
Through a world that is not kind A
nd all this time, preparing him, the one
To hold him up when he comes undone
Beneath the storm, beneath the sun
And now a man, here you stand
Your day has come

A page is turned in this world to reveal a little girl
With a heart that's bigger, as it is unfurled
By the language in her soul, that's teaching her to grow
With a careful cover of love that will not fail
And the God of second chance
Picked her up and He let her dance
Through a world that isn't kind
And all this time, preparing her the one
To hold her up when she comes undone
Beneath the storm, beneath the sun
And grown up tall, here you are
Your day has come

Beneath the air of autumn, she took him by his hand
And warm within the ardor, she took his heart instead
And high upon the mountain, he asked her for her hand
Just for her hand
A page is turned in this life, he's making her his wife
And there is no secret to the source of this much life
When the grace that falls like rain is washing them again
Just a chance to somehow rise above this land
Where the God of second chance
Will pick them up and he'll let them dance
Through a world that is not kind
And all this time, they're sharing with the one
That holds them up when they come undone
Beneath the storm, beneath the sun
And once again, here you stand
And once again, here you stand
Your day has come

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

One Year Ago...

Today marks the one year anniversary of my return to work following my head injury. Or, to be more accurate, the one year anniversary of my successful return to work following my head injury. I had made several previous attempts. There was a time in the not-so-distant past when I didn't understand ritual and tradition. I didn't care for special occasions. Now, I appreciate milestones for the opportunity they give us to stop, step back, and celebrate the progress we've made.

One year ago, my neurologist told me, "It's really too early for you to return to work, but let's try it anyway. With all the holidays, you'll have plenty of built in breaks. And if we find out that you can't do this job anymore, then we'll work on plan B."

One year ago, I was so afraid my life was going to have to turn to plan B. My confidence was pretty shot down. The person I had always been had been kidnapped by this person whose frailties and limitations I didn't understand. I wasn't sure that I would be able to return to work so the independence I had always valued seemed to be a misdirected goal. And yet, one year later, I'm finally starting to see how God is using this new normal for His good.

Instead, this past weekend at church, I went up front during the prayer time to thank God for second chances. A second chance at a job I knew I'd enjoy. A second chance for my book. And maybe, a second chance for my heart.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

It's Official.

It's official.

This week, WaterBrook/Random House reverted rights back to me for Generation Ex. It's a bittersweet experience. Since March when GE first went out of stock, I've been working with WaterBrook to either publish a small 3rd printing to support the promotions I was being asked to do, or revert rights. I hope that this feeling is the closest I come to experience divorce myself. I'm relieved that a decision has been made, but I wish it would have been different.

God's timing is ironic. The After Eve conference offered a significant boost to my confidence that God was not done using me or this message.

The good news is, I have an agent and a few interested publishers already.

As my agent and I begin the shopping process, I ask that you would remember this project in your prayers. I ask especially for direction and protection for all involved parties. I don't think it was an "accident" that I sustained such a serious injury just prior to Generation Ex releasing and I am humbly aware of how standing up for truth can make me a target of the Enemy.

Finally, I am updating my proposal and preparing materials for my agent. If you have a personal story or endorsement to offer, or any suggestions for how this book can be improved, I would love to hear from you or anyone else to whom you pass on this message.

Please email your thoughts and suggestions to

Many thanks to you all.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Birthday Boy!

Happy 2nd Birthday, CJ!
Much love from your godmother,
Aunt Jen

Dear Reader/Zondervan Book Club

Okay, so it's probably no surprise that I'm a reader. My bedroom includes stacks and stacks of books I want to read, and I usually find myself somewhere in several books all at once. About a year ago, I discovered a great little service,

Suzanne, the founder, selects a book each week (there are several genres to choose from). Once you sign up, she'll send you a 5-minute portion via email each morning. By the end of the week, you'll have sampled 2-3 chapters and will have a pretty good idea of you want to keep going. If so, you can click on a link to either borrow it from your local library or purchase it. In addition to the excerpt, her emails often also include promotions to win new books and other fun stuff.

Our team at Zondervan has partnered with Suzanne to offer The Breakfast Club. It works the same way, except that all the sampled books are published by Zondervan (shameless, I know!)

After Eve Recap

I'm back and mostly sleep recovered from my trip to DC. Wow...what a great event. Thanks to all who were praying and offering well wishes for my session.

As it turned out, the session went far beyond what I could have imagined. I've done speaking gigs in the past, but with only 60-90 minutes, it's not realistic to give more than an informational overview. With three hours at After Eve, I was able to give participants time to engage as well as learn. For each of the nine effects described in my book, I included an activity or discussion questions to give attendees time to process and personalize that effect in their lives. I learned how to include music clips in my PowerPoint, which not only allowed for an appropriate song to play during the work time, but it also helped me track time.

The most amazing aspect of the whole thing to me was watching these women go from nervous strangers to vulnerable fellow travelers. Somewhere around the 90 minute-mark, something happened, and the trust we needed to really dig in was there. Tears were followed by laughter, shared concerns were affirmed as the group brainstormed solutions together. And after our three hours were up, I stuck around for another 40 minutes to keep talking with these precious women. I'm quite certain I got as much out of the seminar as anyone else there.

So a heartfelt shoutout to the red-eye crew, I'm gonna get myself a spa day in honor of you!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

After Eve

Thanks to my friend, Rich Hurst, I'm back in the speaking saddle.

I leave in a few hours for DC, where I will be presenting a three-hour intensive at the After Eve Conference. After Eve is a new conference for 18-35 year old women. From the website:

This is a conference by young women for young women. We believe there are many out there thirsting for truth and facing challenges in their lives - just as we are...we want to bring them a fluff-free conference that deals with relevant matters and challenges them to a deeper walk with Christ through living by the Word.

I've wanted to visit the host church, McLean Bible Church, in McLean, Virginia for some time. I'm grateful for this opportunity to check it out Sunday morning. My employer is a sponsor for the event, so I'll be toggling both hats while I'm there.

In a very cool case of God's planning, my trip aligns with that of Gary Thomas, my friend and now one of the authors I'm paid to promote. You can be sure I'll be announcing that here at a later time. In the meantime, Gary and I will have time to meet up on Friday.

I haven't been to DC since I was a kid, so I'm hoping for an opportunity to tour the city. My friends, "the family down the street," have gotten me hooked on The West Wing, so I have a new appreciation for our political system.

I'd appreciate your prayers for safe travel for my team and all those coming in from around the company. And I specifically covet your prayers that the sessions presented (including mine) will be conduits through which God's transforming love and presence will be felt.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

US News & Worlds Report on "Between Two Worlds"

An interview with Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds:

On the Bookshelf: For kids, no 'good' divorces
Posted 9/26/05
By Katy Kelly

For divorced parents trying to minimize the effect on their children, this news is bad. Author Elizabeth Marquardt's new groundbreaking national study of adult children of divorce (ages 18–35) concludes that there is no such thing as a "good" divorce. While good splits are better than bitter ones are, the best divorces still leave children with lasting inner conflict, says Marquardt, a Chicago-based affiliate scholar at the nonpartisan Institute for American Values in New York City and herself a child of a good divorce. Her study makes her case in the just published Between Two Worlds (Crown, $24.95).

Q: Much has been written about the low impact of "good" divorce. Your study says otherwise.

A: Good divorce is a theory, not a fact. The grown children of divorce will tell you there is no such thing as a "good" divorce. Despite parental love and good intentions, divorce creates insurmountable problems for a child.

Q: How so?

A: The parents can both be good people, but they are different. In a marriage, it's the job of the parents to make sense out of their two worlds. Divorced parents have two different versions of truth. The child sees these worlds as polar opposites. The children grow up traveling between two worlds. They start to feel like a different person with each parent. It really hits the child in their identity formation. With divorce, all of a sudden the child has to say: "Who am I?" and "How do I make sense of this?" This is a huge developmental task that is handed to children of divorce that is not part the lives of children of intact families.

Q: Eventually we all have to answer those questions.

A: Yes, but it happens on the divorce timeline, not on the timeline of the child's own needs.

Q: Shouldn't it comfort a child when both parents attend the child's games and school events?

A: In a "good" divorce, parents get to get together on the soccer field, but because the only connection is the child, that's hard. It's the child alone who maintains these two relationships. They are the only common link to both worlds. That's a big job. It makes them self-conscious. It makes them feel they have to watch both sides. Even surrounded by people, they feel much more isolated.

Q: Other fallout?

A: There's a lot of loss that comes with divorce. There is this theme of loneliness. Children of divorce are three times more likely to say, "I was alone a lot as a child." It makes them feel grown up too soon, like little adults. It makes them guarded and can make them secretive. These are the kinds of things that make it really hard to be honest with themselves–from being their honest true self with the person they are most intimate with–their spouse. These are huge losses that impact their spiritual lives. Most are much less likely to be religious than those from intact families, but others look to God as the father they never had in real life.

The cost can be in their relationship with the parent. One huge finding: Only one third of children of divorce say they went to one or both parents for comfort. Children of divorce are more likely to say they went to peers or handled it alone.

Q: If one is settled on getting a divorce, is there a better time in the child's life to do it?

A:I don't find that there is, but the earlier you do it the more complicated it is for the child.

Q: Your advice?

A: Two thirds of divorces end low-conflict marriages. Most are not these abusive, fighting like cats and dogs marriages. People just want out. For parents who are married and have considered divorce–and who hasn't?–it might be the midlife blahs or boredom. But this good divorce talk is incredibly misleading. We hear the stories about how many kids end up brutally damaged by awful divorces and then hear this good divorce thought: Your child will be fine. But you don't want to just prevent awful damage in your child. You want them to thrive.

Q: So right the marriage at any cost?

A: No. With chronic infidelity, abuse, addictions, thank God we have divorce. These marriages have to end, but it's not easy. But for low-conflict marriages there are great resources, including two on the Web: and the marriage-friendly

McManus on Marquardt

Mike McManus, founder of Marriage Savers, wrote this article on Elizabeth Marquardt's new book, Between Two Worlds for his Ethics and Religion column.

btw...thanks to Crown for my copy. It arrived yesterday!

Between Two Worlds
October 19, 2005

One quarter of adults, aged 18-35, lived through the divorce of their parents. It is ashattering experience according to an powerful new book, "Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce" by Elizabeth Marquardt.

When Elizabeth was aged seven, climbing a jungle gym, she heard a mother say toanother, "Kids with divorced parents are kicked back and forth like a footfall." The image grabbed her because that's what her life was like after age three when her parents divorced.

When she quoted the woman to her father, he turned a purplish red and sputtered that the image did not apply to her, because both he and her mother loved her very much. She saw how sad each were to say goodbye at the airport.

But she felt like the football flying "too high, too free" belonging "neither to the place it left nor to the place it was going."

Children of divorce are three times as likely to be expelled from school or to becomepregnant as teenagers as those from intact parents and are five times as apt to live in poverty.

But what about the much larger numbers of children of divorce who seem to be "fine?"

The assumption of many therapists and parents is that if divorcing parents have a "good divorce" in which they do not battle over custody, are civil when in the same room and stick to agreements on visitation and child support that their children will do well.

"In the first ever study of the inner lives of grown children of divorce, there is no such thing as a `good divorce.' It requires children to grow up between two worlds, between parents with vastly different beliefs," asserts Ms. Marquardt.

The study compared 750 Generation X adults of divorced parents with 750 who grew up in intact homes. The differences are stark. Two-thirds of children of divorce who stay in contact with both parents (and many do not) say they felt like they grew up in two families, not one, which creates "endless and often painful complications for a child."

For example, Elizabeth's father and mother both remarried. Her mother and stepfather were hippies who moved into a rented four room tenant farmer's house without indoor plumbing and took showers with a garden hose. Her father worked by day and went to law school at night. Elizabeth flew alone to visit him from age five. Eventually both parents divorced again, and her stepfather, whom she loved, committed suicide.

Fully 44 percent of children of divorce said "I was alone a lot as a child" vs. only 14percent of those in intact families - a three-fold difference. Melissa, one of 71 adult children of divorce interviewed, said that while in high school her mother was frequently absent - at work or on dates or spending the night with boyfriends.

When Daniel's father left his mother to move in with another woman, his mother wasdevastated. Daniel learned not to go to her when he felt sad or scared, because she would become overwhelmed with guilt, call herself a bad mother, and he'd have to comfort her!

A fifth of young adult children of divorce agree that "I love my mother, but do not respect her," triple that of those from intact homes. A quarter of young adults from divorced homes disagree with the assertion, "My father clearly taught me the difference between right and wrong." That compares with just 3 percent of those from intact homes. If the study had included the many children totally abandoned by divorced dads, the ratio would have been much worse.

Because the moral guidelines from each parent conflicted, children "had to create their own values and find within themselves the courage and capacity to trust their own judgment," writes Judith Wallerstein in a Foreword. As one young man put it, "I had to become my own parent."

What are the lessons of "Between Two Worlds?"

First, two-thirds of those who divorce who are in low-conflict marriages, should workharder to save their marriages, or at least wait until children are grown before divorcing. Only a third of the divorced said that they and ex-spouses tried to save the marriage.

Second, therapists who often recommend divorce and clergy who acquiesce in it - must become voices for the children urging parents to be more responsible.

Finally, this book is must reading for the millions of divorced parents or who areconsidering it, for the judges who always grant divorce when only one person asks for it, and by state legislators who should consider replacing "No Fault Divorce" (Unilateral Divorce) with "Mutual Consent Divorce."

"Because of You" video

Kelly Clarkson's video for "Because of You" is a powerful visual testament to the legacy of divorce.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Not ready for some football

I must say, as Viking fan (born in MN) and Packer fan (lived there for several years), I have seen better seasons.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Weekend Fun

Going to great heights for a costume party!

Endorsement for "The Way They Were"

Some time ago, I mentioned another book about the long term effects of divorce, The Way They Were: Dealing with Your Parents' Divorce After A Lifetime of Marriage by Brooke Lea Foster. The book releases in January, but I encourage you to pre-order it.

My endorsement reads:

No matter when our parents divorce, we’re still their kids, and it still hurts. Brooke Lea Foster understands this truth first hand, which makes her an ideal tour guide to led twenty and thirty somethings toward understanding what to do after Mom and Dad say “I don’t.”
-- Jen Abbas, author of Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain

Between Two Worlds by Elizabeth Marquardt

At long last, Between Two Worlds by Elizabeth Marquardt has been published. Those who have read Generation Ex may recall her name as I reference her research.

Elizabeth first caught my attention with an article she wrote for The Washington Post, "We're Successful and We're Hurt." Her words validated my experience:

Those of us who have experienced the losses of divorce know the truth. I'm 31 years old. I'm a writer, just as I always wanted to be. I have a graduate degree from the University of Chicago, a loving husband, and supportive family and friends. From the outside, I look pretty successful. But I have a complex story that, especially through my early years, was largely shaped by my parents' divorce. They divorced when I was 2 and both remain to this day very much involved in my life. I have never doubted their love for me. But for as long as I can remember, they led completely separate lives. I lived with my mother during the school year, and with my father during summers and holidays. I did not lose either of my parents, but a reunion with one of them was always a parting from the other, and the longing I felt for each of them produced sadness and a fear of loss that persisted when I grew up. Their divorce doesn't explain all that I am, but the way it shaped my childhood is central to understanding who I am.

In her book, Elizabeth presents the results of a new national study she conducted with sociologist Norval Glenn. Between Two Worlds focuses on two facets of the divorce experience for children. One is how divorce negatively affects the spiritual and moral formation of children. The second is the analogy of children of divorce being aliens in two worlds (mom's house, dad's house), a part of both, but not truly belonging to either. In intact families, parents made the adjustments to define the rules and roles of home. In divorced families, the child is expected to morph to fit the expectations of each.

I highly encourage you to pick up this important book. Elizabeth is no stranger to the media so I anticipate that we'll be seeing more on her in the coming months.

(btw...Elizabeth mentions my book on page 10).

Northern Lights on Generation Ex

Blogger Northern Lights recently posted her thoughts on Generation Ex:

Sep. 29, 2005


I have been reading an interesting book. It is called, "Generation Ex" by J. Abbas. It is written for adult children of divorce and it really hits the mark. It is almost the author studied our family (my parents and my brothers) and put us in a book. It is meant as a way for healing and moving on with your life, but the pain you have to go through to get there causes me to be moving VERY slowly through the chapters and Bible readings. I usually read a book in a few days and I've been picking this up for several months now, so I guess the 13 bucks I spent are worth it. It really is helping me, even though I "should" be over my parent's divorce by now since I am nearing 40 and they divorced when I was a freshman in college. This book really validates my feelings and explains some of the choices I've made in my life. I would strongly reccommend it for any adult that has been a child of divorced parents. The author describes divorce for children as an eternal funeral that goes on and on and offers hope to put hurt feelings to rest at last. Tons of scripture references and suggestion of other books to read as well.

Online Class Uses Generation Ex

How cool is this? A web-based class on Parenting Children of Divorce recommends Generation Ex for further information. I'm very grateful for the counselors and divorce mediators who have recommended my book. I hope that the next generation ex benefits from what we have learned.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Dad is Santa Claus

No, really! It's true...

From the MN Sun:

Santa Clauses gather at Eden Prairie home to share fellowship, stories
By Lyn Jerde\Sun Newspapers
(Created: Thursday, September 22, 2005 1:23 PM CDT)

Approximately 25 white-bearded men gathered around a backyard pool in Eden Prairie last week for the semi-annual meeting of Minnesota and Wisconsin Santa Clauses. There were no sleighs parked on the street, no reindeer grazing on the lawn. But anyone looking for the semi-annual meeting of Minnesota and Wisconsin Santa Clauses Sept. 17 in Eden Prairie knew they were in the right place by the giant candy canes lining the driveway and the sign on the house declaring "Santa Stops Here."

The approximately 25 white-bearded men gathered around the backyard pool (at least one of whom wore red velvet-like shorts) put to rest any doubt that those seeking Santa Claus had come to the right place.

So, what do Santas talk about when they get together?"

Who's been naughty and who's been nice," said one Kris Kringle.

"Where to buy red cloth," said another.

"Where to get cheap toys and candy," said another.

"The kids," said several.

Sid Fletcher of Eden Prairie (who claims Sid stands for "Santa in disguise") played host at the gathering, where most of the guests greeted each other, and identified themselves, only by Santa and a first name. They compared scrapbooks, swapped stories and shared beard-care tips.

One of the two Santa Dans at the gathering - who's from Champlin, and who works mostly at private residences - said his wife insists that he chop off his extra hair after Christmas. "She sent me to a barber the first week in January," he recalled. "So I went to the barber and I got my hair cut short, but I couldn't part with the beard." Fleming's hair and beard are naturally curly and white, but during the holiday season, the beard is curled daily with hot rollers before he assumes his throne at the Mall of America.

Santa Elmer - also known as Elmer Abbas of Buffalo - said he typically trims down his beard after Christmas, but stops shaving after Father's Day each year." If I don't trim the beard," he said, "the kids think I look like a homeless man." But there's more involved in being Santa Claus than stuffing a red suit and donning a red hat. Whether it's coaxing a smile from a tearful 2-year-old or answering a smart-aleck question from a youngster who's just old enough to wonder whether Santa is real or fake, the Santas said they have to be prepared for anything.

Santa Dan said he has a standard answer: "Christmas Eve is magic."When children ask him, "May I see your reindeer?" or "Can your reindeer fly today?", Santa Dan responds, "Ho, ho, ho! Reindeer can only fly on Christmas Eve, because it's magical. For the rest of the year, Santa has to get around the same way everybody else does."

Santa Elmer said he tries to leave open the possibilities of magic. For example, the child who wants to see reindeer might be told, "Maybe you'll see them on your way out."And, for those who wonder why every store and shopping center has a different Santa, the Santa Elmer answer is, "Sometimes Santa is in a hurry" or "Santa can change his appearance."

For the quintessential question - how can such a chubby guy get down a skinny chimney? - Santa Dan resorts his standby answer."I tell them Santa can get into all types of houses," he said. "Christmas Eve is magic, and I can get down any chimney, whether it's 2 inches or 4 feet wide."

Sometimes, there are moments that can make Santa start to cry. All the Santas said they hear requests to heal loved ones who are sick, or to bring back daddies who are no longer living at home. What a Santa can say in such situations, Santa Elmer said, depends on where he's working. Some shopping centers caution Santas against making religious references of any kind. But if he's working somewhere other than a store or mall, Santa Elmer can, and does, say, "Santa will say a prayer for you."

Not all the hard questions are sad.The Santas have heard from pre-teen girls who ask for a boyfriend, pre-teen boys who want a car, or kids who want Santa to bring them a puppy or kitten. For the latter request, Santa Dan might say, "Oh, I don't know. A little puppy might be afraid riding in my sleigh." Santa Carlucci, who's based in Bloomington and works at a lot of hospitals, said he's had some choked-up moments. Once, he saw a little girl peeking around the corner, who wouldn't respond to his invitation: "Come on over. Santa's got something for you."As he was about to leave, he saw the little girl once more, and asked her, "Why didn't you come to see me?"Leaning against the wall on one leg - the other had been amputated - she replied, "Because I haven't gotten my new leg yet."

All of the Santas at the get-together were what Fletcher calls "natural Santas" - who have the white beard and hair (and usually, but not always, the paunch) to look the part no matter what they're wearing. All the Santas looked the part, though some wore shorts and summer shirts (albeit with prints of wreathes and snowmen) and others wore T-shirts with occupational slogans.Two of the Santas wore identical T-shirts, touting the four stages of Santa: Believing in Santa, suspecting Santa is a fake, dressing like Santa and looking like Santa. Fletcher is, and has been for a long time, at the final stage. He looks so much like Santa that he and his wife, Mollie, dress as Santa and Mrs. Claus every year for their own Christmas card portraits. And, he's home for the holidays year-round, with a Santa-themed toilet seat cover in the bathroom, a red-and-green holiday-theme quilt on the bed and a lighted tree in the bedroom. Mollie Fletcher said the tree's decorations come from the kids who visit Santa at the Mall of America - kid-made ornaments on the branches, plush reindeer and snowman toys beneath the tree.When the Fletchers put up their seasonal holiday tree in December, they decorate it partly with pacifiers. Mollie Fletcher said at least five youngsters give Santa their pacifiers every year - ostensibly because they've outgrown them and want Santa to pass them on to younger children who need them. All the "natural Santas" said they experience Christmas year-round, too, whenever they go to a restaurant and some child excitedly points them out."You live being Santa Claus," Fletcher said. "When you look like this, it's 365 days a year. I'll be in a restaurant, and kids will come up to me and tell me they've been good.""Well," said Mollie Fletcher, "you guys have that glimmer in your eyes. The kids can see that it's really Santa Claus, even if the parents ignore it."

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Nice nod from Modern Disciple

Funny, just as I'm coming to terms with the fact that my book is out of print, the world starts discovering it. C'est la vie.

Modern Disciple reviewed Generation Ex awhile ago, an yet, my reviewer was nice enough to throw me a bone when he reviewed another book, Ambassador Families.

Mitali Perkins has written a book about following Jesus. If that doesn't interest you, I suggest that you stop here.

Still with me? This is a great topic to write about. I mean, I used to watch a lot of TV as a kid, but that was when there were only three networks. I was teaching a first year university class two years ago, and made the mistake of mentioning that I got my degree in 1994, a full year before I surfed the web for the first time - (thanks, Tony Shore). The gasp that filled the room was horrific. I mean, how did I survive without the internet?

Words have been added to our lexicon just in the last nine years since my son was born: ipod, MP3, Tamagochi, Digimon, etc. This book acts as a guide to navigating your kids through the maze of choices that the culture provides, but also to prepare them to observe and interact pop culture to find truth for themselves and others.

A Bengali immigrant and a former missionary, the author uses the imagery of the modern missionary to emphasize the role that we have the privilege to play in the 21st century.

"The best preparation we can give them is to travel into popular culture with them, just as Jesus did with his 'children'" p. 26

She begins with Following Jesus:
Into Uncharted Territory
Into Hostile Places
To Hunt For Treasure
To Find The Outsider
To Speak The Language
When Others Judge You

In each chapter, she lays out tangible examples and practical applications for you and your family to not only see the media choices, but also to process them together. The Put It Into Practice and Bringing It Home sections serve this purpose very well. And I like the way she encourages us as parents not to "use" popular culture, but to "engage" it. Big difference.

Like Jen Abbas' Generation Ex, Perkins provides a necessary resource at a time when there are few like it.

- Ryan Richardson

Armchair Interviews Review

Thanks to my friends at Armchair Interviews for this kind review:

Generation Ex
by Jen Abbas Waterbrook Press-Random House

Reviewed by Connie Anderson

A poem, written when the author was 18, starts the book by describing her parents' divorce as resembling an earthquake, rumbling with rage, anger and guilt that have been festering for a long time.

This powerful poem tells you Generation Ex will be a painful ride toward much-needed healing for adult children of divorce.

The author said: When it came to love and my own adult relationships, what I wanted so desperately (love) was what I feared the most. I didn't want to repeat what my parents did.
Abbas wrote the book not to revisit "the divorce," but to give other adult children of divorce permission to admit it hurt and to give us hope so we can choose to begin to heal that hurt.
Written from the Christian perspective, the author tells the lesson God has whispered to her was that she was no longer the victim of her parents' past. She is God's precious child with a future full of promise in her relationships. And so are you! We don't always know why our God allows us to experience pain, but we can be confident that He has a plan.

This message is about deep pain that led to her healing--and by following in her guided footsteps, your healing can begin too. Some of her chapters are: Make Peace; Redefine Our Family Relationships; Find Home for Ourselves; Seek Wholeness; Learn to Trust; Anticipate Our Triggers; Create Our Own Marriage Model; and Choose to Love. The book has four appendixes of "things to do."

Armchair Interviews says: If you have felt any hurt from a parents' divorce, this book is for you. It is a gift waiting for you to open and explore, learn from and work toward healing. Her advice, resources and message are invaluable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Breaking Up with ED

I've been meaning to mention this website for quite a while. Lee Blum has recovered from an eating disorder (ED) and is using her experience to help others recover. Based in Minnesota, Lee speaks to groups and leads support groups in the Minneapolis area. Lee is also working on a book, Breaking Up With ED, that is quite unique in it's approach. With the assistance of her counselor, Lee uses the romantic analogy of courtship to illustrate how someone might be drawn into--and out of--an eating disorder. Where Lee shares her perspective as the person with the eating disorder, family and loved ones will benefit from her counselor's notes and observations.

If you know anyone who has been involved with ED, please visit Lee's site.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Not dead yet...'s been awhile since I've posted. No real excuse for that, expecially since this way my attempt to stay in touch with everyone. I have a few drafts saved, which I'll try to finish and post. Since my last post I've had one trip to Nashville for work and another little relapse.

A few quick thoughts about my trip:

* I represented my company at the American Association of Christian Counselors world conference. We haven't exhibited at this event before and it was an enlightening time for our team. Zondervan has a wealth of resources for counselors (both professional, pastoral and lay counselors)--not only the big names most folks are know, but also a bevy of hidden gems like Stumbling Toward Faith, Conversations with the Voiceless and Surviving Information Overload. I think the thing I love most about my job is connecting resources with those who need them.

* The highlight of my trip with a little divine intersection with a neuropsychologist who stopped by our booth. My colleague and I would often ask attendees about their area of specialty as a way of educating them about new resources for their clients. When this man stopped by, I gushed, "I LOVE neuropsychologists!" because my neuropsych was so beneficial in helping me understand the emotional effects of my head injury. And emotionally, at this point in my recovery, I was having a hard time with the reality that I'm not the same person I was pre-injury. I was so blessed by our conversation, the affirmation that what I was experiencing really was normal, and especially by the prayer he shared with me. We talked a bit about the spiritual effects of head injuries (something I hope to write about more at a later date) and the whole idea of redefining normal for me. Because my long term memory is fine, my mind still thinks I should function at the level and in the way I did before. But I can't. And when I try to, I fail. I need to learn to live with my new limits, and it's extraordinarily frustrating. I need to remember that God has allowed this for His purposes and instead of railing against Him for allowing it, I need to ask Him to show me what He desires for this new me. The prayer this man prayed over me was a soothing balm based on the fruits of the spirit:

may I love I am now
may I experiece joy...with life as it is now
may I have peace with I am now
may I have patience with I am now
may I show kindness to I am now
my I seek the goodness in I am now
may I renew faithfulness in my I am now
may I show gentleness to I am now
may I exhibit self-control in my thoughts toward I am now.

Father, bless that man for his discernment for the words and assurance I needed that day.

As a result of our talk, and a conversation I had with a professor of psychology and neuroscience the night before, I found a few articles online to enlighten and assure me a bit more:

What is Brain Injury?

Emotional Stages of Recovery

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Hurricane Help

Many thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by hurricane Katrina.

Click here for a list of organizations offering help. I also recommend International Aid, located here in Michigan. After December's tsunamis I was able to hear and see what this faith-based organization did to mobilize aid and healing. They are already at work for the victims of Katrina.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Dan Haseltine (Jars of Clay) wrote a beautiful tribute for Relevant. (*It's not yet on the website, so I've included the article after my comments below.)

There is a very tender part of my heart reserved for those of my grandparents' generation who have endured more than my generation can imagine...and lived and loved through it all.

Growing up with two divorces showed me how relationships end before I even know how to see them start. It wasn't until I became a Christian and realized that marriage was created--not only for companionship and all the other wonderful perks that come with the package--but especially as a means of allowing us the privilege of demonstrating the spiritual reality of God's unconditional love. As we love another imperfect person, and receive their love, we are reflecting the relationship between God and His bride, the Church. As Christians, we fail, we stray, we are unfaithful. Yet God remains. And He loves. He doesn't say, "I'll only love you if you love me back." He doesn't say, "I'll be faithful as love you as long as you are faithful to me." He says, "I love you. Period."

My pastor preached this week on I John--Perfect love is made complete not when we receive God's love, but when we relay it to others. Perfect love is not only reciprocal, it radiates. Complete love is not the mushy emotional stuff of Tom Cruise movies (and real life), it's love that is both received fully from the Source, and relayed freely to those who surround us. This is why Jesus, when asked the greatest commandment, gave two: "Love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your and mind" AND "Love your neighbor as yourself." The true test of how much you love is not how much you feel, but how much your love flows.

One of the most destructive dangers in divorce is that it dams up our ability to receive God's love and it dams up our ability to demonstrate love to others. We're stuck with hardened hearts through which love cannot flow.

When mom and dad tell us that they loved each other once, but no more, and yet they tell us they love us, so we learn that love is something that goes away. Naturally, it follows that if our parents, who are "supposed to" love us, and can see and touch us have a love that fades, what a leap to believe that a God we can't see or touch would love us any more. Our ability to receive love is blocked. Our hearts cannot express what they do not contain. If we are not filled with love, we will look to others to give us what we wish to be able to give ourselves. Our relationships are motivated by what we get from them rather than an outlet of sharing what is overflowing within us.

When mom and dad divorce, we learn to measure out our love to those we think "deserve" it because they've "earned" it. Love is a precious commodity that cannot be wasted. But then, what we think is love is simply kind reciprocations. True love requires risk, vulnerability and a willingness to be devastatingly disappointed. "Love" maintained on a balance sheet is a matter of convenience, and when the balance is unprofitable, the account is closed.

The book that forever alters my understanding of God's unconditional love and the spirituality of marriage, and really gave me a vision for what marriage is meant to be, is Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. This book is my obligatory gift for engaged couples or is part of my wedding gift. The subtitle, "What if the purpose of marriage is to make us holy more than happy?" is enough to demonstrate what distinguishes this book from most fluffy marriages books on the market. Whether single or married, I highly encourage you to check it out.



IT IS A CLOUDY MORNING IN BALTIMORE. I just hopped on a plane headed for a family reunion of sorts. The point to acknowledge is that my grandparents have lived for 80 years, and even more significant, they have labored in marriage for 60 of those years.

I am headed to a celebration. I find that as years pass and as we continue to celebrate the great accomplishment of years and the profound mercy and grace surrounding the life of my grandparents, the celebrations become a bit more sobering. They become less of a cheer and more of a sigh of relief. I am so thankful that they have lived this long, and I cannot believe that they still find ways of loving each other well. It is affirmation of something that seems to be constantly eroded and discredited—the idea that marriage can last, and that there truly is enough grace to cover the wounds, even the deep ones.

There are many reasons why people do not stay together anymore. I have watched relationships crumble, and I have been in orbit around couples that never realized they didn’t know each other and didn’t even have the desire to dig in. They slowly constructed parallel lives with huge embankments and heavily decorated medians. And then the roads split off with no apparent convergence in sight. And it all happened without much drama. If you asked them, they would say that they just had different goals and that they were fine with the separation.

I think some of our cultural ideas can be poison for relationships. We seem to operate on two basic ideas: what we deserve, and who we can blame for not getting it.

There seem to be more “Christian” marriages that dissolve slowly or end quickly, and I am amazed that even counselors, who are provoked in their vocation by the Gospel, tell couples that the situation they are in is just too corrupt to be reconciled. I have often wondered what this truly means in light of the Gospel. I look at those who have stood the test of time, and after wading through so many back-handed comments and justifications that dismiss the accomplishment—statements like, “Well, they are just from another generation, a generation of people who stayed together”—I am aware that we just don’t see the Gospel account of marriage as valid anymore.

Look at the marriage of Jesus, the one He has been in for eternity, the one with the bride who sleeps around, never listens, disowns, scorns, dishonors, runs away, intentionally proves to be more interested in anything but her husband, is selfish and bears the children of every affair and the scent of every escapade. It was a marriage that killed Jesus. And it was the Gospel that brought Him back to life to love once more. Jesus endures the worst marriage of all. His bride nails Him to a cross, and there are no metaphors to compare His suffering to what we think we endure.

We will continue to search for ways to be appreciated in our marriages, for ways to be cherished, and if we do not find them, then we leave. Because we are not getting what we want, or feel like we need, our spouse is to blame. We are people who like to move from relationship to relationship, church to church, in search of what fills us, rather than what allows us to fill others. But what we think we deserve by way of our cultural cues is quite different from what we do deserve.

What we deserve is to be lonely, what we deserve is to be isolated from the one who loves us better than anyone else. What we deserve is to never be pushed forward, to never deepen in our wisdom and experience of love and community. What we deserve is to die a dark and disconnected fate. And if we are going to apply the rules of culture today, the only one to blame for not getting what we deserve is Jesus.

I watched my grandparents hold hands and walk together. They are most definitely from a different generation. They have seen the invention of computers, cell phones, MTV, chemical warfare, strip malls, Nazi Germany, cable TV, rock ’n’ roll, the civil rights movement, the rise of heroes and the fall of heroes. And they held hands through it all. They fought to keep a family, bent on falling apart and dissolving, together. They were honored by those of us who stood around them smiling, while in our minds taking stock of our own marriages. We wondered if we would have the tools to last that long. And for a brief moment, we were able to escape the cultural winds of blame and entitlement, we had cake and we ate it too. Now on another plane heading away from the experience, I know it to still be true. And it is good to have these times of clarity.

For people like my grandparents, who have lived long enough to feel the effect of carrying the accumulative weight of scars, life was about the fight. But what they remember most is the way burdens were lifted by laughter and how the fight was always interrupted by the joy of victory, and those moments, however fleeting, carried a sweet fragrance. They have lived in the trenches and on the mountaintops, and their story of life and marriage is worth describing. It is worth recounting. Theirs is a legacy that illuminates grace, mercy, pain and redemption. I hope more people from our generation will find this view of marriage to be worth the fight.

[Dan Haseltine is the lead singer of the multi-platinum and Grammy-winning band Jars of Clay. Over the past few years, the band has also been recognized for their global humanitarian efforts, namely with Blood:Water Mission, an organization created to provide clean water and blood to Africa This article has been adapted from the Sept./Oct. 2005 issue of RELEVANT magazine.]

Friday, August 26, 2005

Sacred Pathways

For those of you who have been reading along, you know that Gary Thomas is one of my favorite authors. And now, he is one of the authors I'm privileged to serve at my day job. One of Gary's first books is an insightful look at the different ways we connect with God (and He with us). Yesterday I posted this message about Sacred Pathways on the Zondervan blog.

Discover your spiritual pathway by taking this online quiz.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Another one bites the dust...

Congrats to my brother, Jake, and future sister-in-law, Meagan!

March of the Penguins

Last night a friend and I took our favorite guys (the 6 and 4-year old sons of mutual friends) to see March of the Penguins. I had the idea several weeks ago that I wanted to do something special with them before their sister comes home from China. I figured a documentary about penguins should be pretty safe for young eyes.

What I didn't expect was that it would be a movie that I would so thoroughly enjoy. If you haven't heard much about the premise of the movie, it really isn't that much different that most popular movies: the quest for love and the obstacles one overcomes to find and fight for that love. One scene that stuck out to me panned across to show a thousand or so penguins, all exhausted from the trek to arrive at the meeting place. (Not so different that singles gathering after a long work week). As the camera zoomed in and around, we see the different ways the male penguins attract the attention of the female penguins. There are more males than females, so we see a few cat fights (penguin fights) as well.

But what I found truly stunning was the way the film showed the courtship ritual. I looked over to my friend, momentarily wishing there weren't two little boys between us. I wanted to tell her this would be a great romantic movie if we were with guys a few decades older! And like any true romance, the bond between the two penguins doesn't culminate with the physical union. Both the male and female demonstrate great commitment and sacrifice to protect the egg (the dads balance the egg on their feet under a fold of their skin for 3 months in the brutal winter while the moms go off to the ocean to fill up so they can feed the babies when they hatch).

It really was a beautiful picture of committed love, all in the context of stunning photography. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I'm at an age where I've been to more than my share of weddings, and truthfully, I'm also at that age where I can be more cynical than celebratory. Reminds me of an old "Friends" episode, "I'm totally happy for you...well maybe, mostly happy and a teeny bit jealous...okay, mostly jealous, but still happy."

Most the weddings I've attended this year have been for couples a decade younger than me. When I was their age I thought it was crazy to get married so young. I wanted to get out there and establish myself as Miss Independent first. Well, I did that and now the pickins have definitely slimmed. From this side of things, I can appreciate the beauty and blessing of struggling together in those transitional 20s.

This weekend I attended the wedding of a couple who married in their the 80s. It was actually a recommitment ceremony and it will sit as one of the most emotional, memorable weddings, if not experiences, of my life.

This couple is part of my much-loved intergenerational small group. It has been an answer to prayer to find a few other people from different walks of life to share life with. (Side note: We first got together as part of our church's 40 Days of Purpose campaign and dubbed ourselves The Zeros because as a group, grace didn't rank very high on our giftedness. This weekend we realized how much God has taught us. Each family has faced a significant crisis since joining our group).

Last October, it looked like these two were going to divorce. The wife shared that she felt like their marriage was a Jenga game knocked over one too many times. She was staring at all the pieces and didn't have the desire or strength to put them together again. As a two-time child of divorce, it's very hard for me to hear this sort of thing because I know that divorce rarely solves problems. Couples who fight before they divorce fight after the divorce, whenever children are involved. So I sat and listened and God gave me a thought.

The next day I went to Meijer and bought a Jenga game...and a big ol' tube of Super Glue. I wrote a note to my friend saying something to the effect that she doesn't have the strength or desire to repair her marriage, which makes her ready to let God be the glue of their relationship.

At the wedding, this couple had a Jenga tower next to the communion elements. When they addressed the small group of us assembled, the husband and wife shared the litany of things God did to show them how the only one happy when a couple divorces is Satan. They shared the things that brought instability to their marriage and in one sweeping swoop knocked over the Jenga pieces. After a moment of letting that image sink in, they pulled out the Jenga tower I gave them. It was super glued together and they had written "Christ" on the center blocks, and Scripture and situations on the long pieces that described the process of rebuilding--everything from a marriage class they took to our small group. Then they took a 3-strand cord and wrapped it around the tower.

That's just one example of the symbolism of this ceremony, and the most personal to me, but the whole event created such an amazingly wonderful demonstration of the choice to love...and to keep loving. For our small group, it was incredibly powerful to revisit all those moments that we shared that led this much-loved couple to reconcile. For me, as the token single, it was a healing affirmation that God sometimes uses us best in the areas where we are weakest and can do nothing but trust Him to lead us on.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The New Normal

The results of a new survey reveal further devaluation of the family. Single family households (those headed by singles, single parents, and divorced individuals) are now surpassed married couples as the most common family form in America. I hope that churches in particular see the implications of this reality. There are a lot of lonely folks out there looking for connection and a sense of stability. The church in America has a great opportunity to meet a significant need.

A few resources that come to mind are Bowling Alone and Urban Tribes.

Single-adult households take the lead in U.S.

By Cheryl Wetzstein
The Washington Times

Published August 17, 2005

Single-adult households have displaced two-parent families with children as the most common kind of U.S. household, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.

The change demonstrates "the growing complexity" of American households, researchers said in a new report, "Examining American Household Composition: 1990 and 2000."

"It's breathtaking how many people still think that the 'mom, pop and two kids' is the majority of households," said Peter Francese, the founder of American Demographics magazine.

Nuclear-family households -- two married parents and a child -- were the most common as recently as 1990, when there were 25 million such households.

But by 2000, nuclear-family households fell to second place, both because there were almost a half-million fewer of these type of homes and because the number of single-adult households surged past 27 million.

Married households without children remained the third most common, with 20 million in 1990 and 22 million in 2000.

Mr. Francese, who has studied U.S. demographic trends for 35 years, said single-adult households are continuing to grow and might even hit 34 million by the 2010 census.

This is because people are most likely to live alone "at either end of the life cycle" -- in youth or as senior citizens -- he said, and baby boomers are just starting to move into their 60s.

The sex disparity -- more women live alone than men -- is also likely to continue, he said. Women are most likely to live alone because of the death or divorce of a partner. Already, among those 65 or older, there are 6 million more women than men.

In contrast, he said, men are most likely to live alone if they've never married, and both widowers and divorced men are likely to find a partner.

However, not all of those adults living alone are living completely alone, said Mr. Francese, who tracks trends for the Ogilvy & Mather marketing communications firm.

Professional, commuter couples might live alone during the week, but share weekends together, he said. Single parents might regularly have their children in the home, and single adults might have lengthy visits from friends or lovers.

"There is a tremendous diversity in this [living-alone] group," he said.

In its report, the Census Bureau also found an increase in multigenerational households.

Fifty-five percent, or 57.7 million of the 105 million U.S. households, had only one generation living in it, researchers wrote, referring to a person who lives alone or who lives with a spouse, unmarried partner or sibling.

However, 41 percent of households included people from two generations, such as a child or a grandparent, and 3.9 percent of households had three generations. The latter category saw the most dramatic growth, rising from 3 million multigenerational households in 1990 to 4.1 million in 2000.

The bureau offered details on the "top 20" types of living arrangements because those represented 92 percent of all U.S. households. However, the nation's broad diversity in living arrangements can be seen in the 786,000 possible household combinations that the bureau now tracks, researchers said.

Copyright © 2005 News World Communications, Inc. All rights reserved.