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Review of Love Lives Here by Maria Goff

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I read Love Does a couple years ago and very quickly fell in love with Bob’s writing style.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover Maria employs the same style, sharing a story and example and tying it to a deeply profound truth that resonates deeper than you realize in the moment.

Since reading Love Does, I’ve found myself telling the stories Bob shared in lessons I teach and conversations I have.  I have already found myself doing the same with Maria’s stories and examples of Love Lives Here.

I think the best way to explain Maria’s focus of “Finding what you need in a world telling you what you want” is in a metaphor she uses.  Bob is known for bringing balloons to events all over the world.  He is a big, audacious, whimsical personality that I was shocked to find also works as an attorney.  Maria shared that whenever they go places Bob brings balloons and she brings string.  Maria does not similarly share of huge, crazy adventures.  Instead, she shares of loving her neighbors, friends, and family really well.  Maria talks about crafting a home where everyone who enters senses and feels the home and safety she has found in Christ.

“His plan from the beginning of time was that love wouldn’t be traded among the noises in our lives; it would be understood in the places of peace.  Sometimes when we’re asking Him for an answer, He sends a friend.”

Over the first few pages I found myself writing hearts all over the margins, underlining, and writing the phrase “DON’T SKIP THIS” before the foreword and introduction.

“Faith doesn’t eliminate fears in my life; it lets me know I had someone I could bring them to.”

Maria also offers great insight into walking into your own story and scars in order to truly love people well.

“What I’m learning is that the good news of our faith isn’t found in avoiding the pain, but in living through the loss, walking through the ashes, and stacking back up what we know could burn down again.”


“Preparing soil that someone can grow in is hard work, but it’s not all the work.  Preparing your own soil is where the most important tilling is done.”

As I read this book, I quickly began making a list of person after person to give this book to that I love in my life.  So if you’re reading this, go ahead and click here to purchase Love Lives Here.

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Father’s Day Stories

Father’s Day.

This day that serves to celebrate and honor the men that love and serve us so well, so faithfully without recognition.  This day that now serves as a painful reminder of missing all the sweet ways my Dad faithfully yet imperfectly served and loved me so well.

Stories.

Stories have often functioned as a healing balm for our gaping wounds over the past year as we have so missed our Dad, but so enjoy remembering how well he loved us and all that he continues to mean to us.

 Legacy.

Our family has discussed this word often.  My brother had friends and loved ones whose lives had been impacted by my Dad stand at his funeral, charging them that they were his legacy.

So here are a few stories to try to encapsulate the man we got to call Dad.  The man we celebrate today.  And the man whose legacy we are honored to bear.


M I C H A E L

One night when we were really little, Andrew and I fell asleep with our Mom for some reason.  Daddy found us there and rather than disturbing us went and slept in our bunk beds.  In the middle of the night there was a loud crash and Daddy came rushing into the room to check on everyone.  The sound came from his wooden shelves in his closet breaking, but he, still out of breath from his panic, said “I thought the boys’ bunk beds had fallen!”  “Honey, you were in the bunk beds.” My mom responded.

Emily Katherine had some stomach problems as a baby and had the hardest time sleeping.  I remember countless nights of Daddy pacing the living room walking her back and forth so patiently, whispering so softly.  There was not a light on in the room.  He just kept walking back and forth bouncing her softly.


A N D R E W

Every summer when we were young, my dad would shave our heads. We spent summers shut out of our aunt’s house and released into the woods, so the buzz cut made it easier to check us for ticks. Our ever utilitarian parents also used the summer to save money on haircuts. We would commemorate the start of each summer in the driveway, on top of a overturned five gallon bucket-made-seat where our dad would shave our heads and ring in summer with us.

The summer after my freshman year of college, I went to the Philippines to work on a farm for several months. My dad came down and moved me out of my dorm and we spent the several days getting the necessary supplies together. The night before I left, he showed me a weather report that showed my first glimpse of the triple digit heat I had signed up for. I began to grow my hair in the second semester of my freshman year, intending to use my time abroad to allow my hair to grow. My dad used the weather report as a bargaining tool and convinced me to let him shave my head. We went to the garage, flipped a bucket upside down, and removed my sought after hair. When my hair was on the floor and about my shoulders, my dad kissed the top of my head, thanked me for letting him shave my head, and told me he loved me.


 E M I L Y   K A T H E R I N E

I once was working on a music video project for school.  We were driving all over downtown filming in different spots.  We stopped in front of city hall and my car key wouldn’t come out of the ignition.  The longer I sat there trying to get it out the more my car kept overheating.  Not having the slightest understanding in the world of cars, I called my Dad crying, terrified it was going to catch on fire at any moment.  “I’ll be right here.”  He said on the other side of the phone.  In about five minutes, he pulled up next to me and walked up to the car.  I got out to let him assess the situation.  His tone with me got really gentle, but I could tell he was fighting not to laugh.  “Baby, I’m not trying to make you feel… Baby, you key won’t come out because your car is in reverse.”

When I was four years old, I was a bumble bee in my dance recital.  I was on stage at dress rehearsal dancing my heart out.  When the song ended, I stood there proudly expecting a grand applause from our teacher of how well we did.  Instead, all of the lights came on in the audience as our teachers whispered.  Mine walked right over to me with the microphone and said, “Where is her mother?!”  My mom had a work meeting that night, and I watched my Dad, still in his suit and tie from work, stand up to claim me.  They called him onto the stage to show him how a few of my velcro dots that held my tutu up were off and he listened so intently to make sure we could get it right for the recital.

 

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Making.

“You are working in our waiting
You’re sanctifying us
When beyond our understanding
You’re teaching us to trust”

“Sovereign over us”

I’ve learned I have a hard time living in the present tense.

The fact that “He is making all things new” and they aren’t already made new, while we long for them.

The journey, the slowness, the pain of being made new, when my heart is desperate for the quick, the immediate, the already accomplished.

You are working.  You are sanctifying.  You are teaching.  And I’m begging to be done.

This week, I sat under the teaching of a RUF minister who shared, “If I were the writer of the grand narrative of Scripture, I would have brought in crucifixion, resurrection, and glorification, by like Genesis 4.” Yet, He didn’t.  He took thousands of years to take us on our journey home.


I’m currently riding on what feels like an endless journey home.  Our high school students from my Church attended a camp in Colorado and we took a bus.  Our plan both in coming and going from Rome, GA to Estes Park, Colorado was to stop half way in Kansas to stay the night.  Last night though, this didn’t quite go as planned.

We were sitting at dinner in a Mexican restaurant when a terrible storm came through.  Upon, finishing eating and paying for our meals, we boarded the bus to head to our hotel for the night.  Once we reached the hotel, we discovered the entire area had no power from the storm.  In the background we heard tornado sirens.

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Sitting on the bus, it was so dark we couldn’t even see the hotel next to us.  The students were exhausted, ready to shower, and ready to use the bathroom, having boarded the bus at six that morning.

The hotel had no power so we got back on the bus to keep traveling.  Soon, we reached a gas station.  We went to the bathroom and tried to call hotels to see if we could find somewhere for our students to stay.  As there is very little between Kansas City and Kentucky, there was little to nowhere to stay.  Eventually, we decided to pull over at a gas station and continue to sleep on the bus, allowing our bus driver the required amount of time to rest before continuing to drive another full day.  We rested and continued to drive.

Around 10:30 this morning we stopped for breakfast, all of us talking about how desperately we wanted to shower, to be in our beds, to be home.  To be made new by rest, family, hospitality, and cleanliness. But as we were stopped and sharing, we were still a six hour drive from home.


Making is messy.

It means unraveling, needing, missing, losing sight, and having to remind yourself there is home and hope to come.

And I’ve taken a break from writing, a chosen fast really, because of “making” that needed to take place in my life.  Hurts, cynicism, and bitterness that needed to be walked into.  Reconciliation that needed to be sought.

And right in the middle of it, I took a night to make biscuits.

One of my favorite quotes from my Grammy is “Making biscuits is not for someone who minds getting their hands dirty.”  and goodness is that so true.  I mixed the batter with my hands, folding in the right ingredients.  I spread flour all over my counter and dumped batter into lumps.  I folded the lumps of batter in the flour until they resembled a ball and placed them on a pan to be baked.  My hands, shirt, and honestly hair were covered in flour and dough, but those biscuits were delicious.

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As I was walking through the process thinking how messy it was, I started to wonder if I was doing it right, but remembered countless times watching my Grammy or my Dad make biscuits, knowing this messiness, as wrong as it felt was right.  It was what making biscuits took.


I don’t think I take enough time to recognize the weight of what it means that Jesus took on flesh to be in the “making” with us.  That He “didn’t consider equality something to be grasped”.

This week, that same pastor shared a story of a lady who was running in the Boston Marathon when the bombing took place.  She was running and when the bombs exploded, some scrap metal flew into her legs.  She immediately fell to the ground, hysterically crying.  Many tried to console or help her but she was inconsolably in pain, crying out for help that no one around her could provide.

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A man walked up who had served in Iraq who also had wounds from scrap metal.  He walked up, showed her his side, and said something to her and her screaming quieted.

Her pain didn’t go away.  But He got it.  He knew the pain too.


I think if I were God, I would do everything in the world to keep my kids out of the “making” process.  I would just want them to be born, made totally new.  Which was His plan.  But even as we ruined it, as we thought we could figure out how to care for ourselves better than Him, He didn’t abandon us.

He entered the making.  He was brought low, felt pain, grief, hunger, betrayal, temptation, and His journey home felt never ending.  When He was in the Garden crying, “Lord, take this cup from me.”  He knew his journey home still had many trials to come.  But He was wounded in the making to be with us in it.

And as He is making, refining, sanctifying, and reminding me of my emptiness, I’m reminding myself that He is wounded too.  That as I am crying out hysterically to be done, to be out of pain, that He continues to reveal His wounds.  His wounds that bring me grace I can never deserve.  And as the journey home continues to be endless, I press on knowing that the making He is doing in “preparing a place for me” is better than I could ever ask or imagine.

 

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Hey there.  Thanks so much for reading.  My name is Emily Katherine and I’d love to get to know you.  Feel free to comment below or click the FOLLOW button to stay in touch.

Guest blog: Groundhog Day

This is my first time sharing a guest post from someone I’ve only met virtually.  My family has graciously received story after story from friends around us of their shared experience losing a parent and the grief that follows.  My brother, Michael shared with our family when Troy’s mom’s cancer continued to spread.  We prayed for her knowing the pain of losing a parent.  Troy’s mom soon lost her battle to cancer on this side of Heaven.  Michael shared when he and Troy met, they both hugged with no words, but eyes full of tears.

We would have never anticipated the stories we would hear and share this year with new friends and old.  May we slow down our own plans and priorities and attune ourselves to receive and share in life’s joys and sufferings with those who God brings in our path.  Thanks for sharing, Troy.


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(taken October 23rd 1988, on my way to boot camp)

The world somehow feels different now. Every day I wake up, there is an unexplainable emptiness –an emptiness of having lost one of the greatest gifts of life -a parent’s unconditional love.

The emptiness feels like a small child who ventures out from safety, then they return to home base for a safe reunion.  For me, home base was my parents.  As we get older, we venture further from that base.  One day, we leave for good to start college or in my case, to join the Navy.  However far away we go, that familiar comfort of home base will always be there when we return.  Even in my midlife, I have a loving family of my own away from “home”, yet I know there is a home base beyond the four walls I now call home.

I knew home and its dependability, but the security of having a home base died for me on Feb 15th at 11:05pm when my mom took her last breath.

The gravity of such a loss threw me into stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, in that order – or so I think.  8 months.  8 months since her diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. I guess the grief really began then, June 28th, 2016.

I thought at the time, of writing this piece, I was reaching acceptance.  I am only just now accepting the diagnosis. This could not possibly happen to my mother and definitely not the end result.  It still seems so unimaginable.

The very week of Christmas we learned that chemotherapy was having no affect on the tumor.  In fact, the tumor had grown and spread to other organs.  The doctor recommended that my mom surround herself with loved ones and enjoy each day until the end.  She still seemed so full of life.  It just couldn’t be real.

Each week she became weaker and weaker.  Each passing minute, a hopeless step closer to the inevitable.

In the last 3 weeks of her life, I woke up everyday to confront and face the reality again and again. It felt like the movie Groundhog Day.  Each day, I began the process of grief again.  Every morning, it felt new and still so unbelievable again.  By the end of the day, there was peace.  And then just like clock work, I would wake up and feel the same sadness I had the morning before.

On the day she died, I have never felt more relieved.  Then, the relief was replaced with gravity.  Gravity of my “home base” being lost forever.  Again.  Every morning new and empty.  Of course, my geographical “home” will always be in the same place, but my safety of my mother’s unconditional love will be missed forever.

Today is March 3, 2017 – a whole 2 weeks and 1.5 days since my mother passed away and every morning it is new.  New and empty, the pain repeating itself and then the peace, followed by another painful morning.

I miss you, Mommy.

-Troy Willis

When you don’t want to open your Bible

This was a message I got to share to the students in the WinShape College Program at Berry College in Rome, GA where I am on college ministry staff.  Our focus this year has been on “A Word Centered Life”.  Here is my story on struggling to have one for the past year.

Books quoted: ESV BibleWhen I don’t desire GodHaving a Mary heart in a Martha worldShe Reads Truth: Open your Bible, and Love Does.

Guest blog: Summer to Winter

My guest blogger today is my very own big brother.

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Michael is 6 years older than me and over 6 feet tall.  He has always been the big and strong brother, but in the past year has been brave in whole new ways.  I remember the very first night we were in the hospital together.  Michael and I got locked out getting something from the car and had to take a long way around to get back to the small room our family would be sleeping in that night.  Michael told me he was feeling the pressure to be the strong one, to be less emotional and more fearless, despite the fact that he was just as scared as the rest of us.  I was so proud of his openness and have only been overwhelmingly proud since of the courage he has taken to be angry, hurt, broken, and lost, because that’s the road grief walks you down.  Michael got all of the creative genes in our family as you’ll see in his writing style.

Thankful for you.


“Learning to weep, learning to vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human.” – Henri J. M. Nouwen

This summer – I was reeling from the loss of my father, but found myself having to still do my job. I had flown to California for our largest annual event and had been assigned to filming and conducting some really personal interviews.

In this process, and between interviews, I overheard a conversation begin with a gentleman I did not know, about how his mom had just been diagnosed with cancer. So early in the process that they had no action plan yet, no treatment arranged. Just the sudden weight of it.

By the time we actually introduced ourselves to each other, it was a hug and not a handshake. And we were both in tears.

He and I have kept in touch, often, since that day in the summer. Me to check on his mom and his family, and he to check on mine.

Thursday night, I found out his mom passed away.

I wept for a woman I had never met.

I wept for my friend and his family.

I walked to dinner with my head swirling, unable to be a part of the conversations around me.

And when I made it back to my bed I turned out the lights and typed this note on my phone.

How do you offer “hope” when you can be so certain it cannot yet be felt?

Perhaps “hope” in these moments, is that you don’t hurt alone.

And that maybe, hurting is such a deep part of being human.

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Weep. Mourn. Wail.
Freely. Openly.
Let no man question you for this.
Let no man doubt your marrow.
There is so much strength – in coming undone.
I was told grief is love’s receipt.
And I let it wash over me. Still do.
Wave after wave.
Left rooms to weep in solitude.
Restaurants. Bathrooms. Hallways. Pulled over and bottomed out. Head on my steering wheel. 
Stood sobbing in the shower. 
Still do.
The friends that know that broken, will stand tall when you cannot. 
Texts. Calls. Dinner. Silent moments sitting. Pain filling their eyes. 
An overflow of their own.
These moments are pure. 
Be carried and baptized in their wholeness.
And throw your rocks at the moon. 
Every question and hurt and pain and doubt and fear hurled into the night sky. 
Full force. 
Core to extremity. 
Unleash. 
Til you collapse exhausted on a tear dotted pillow.
And wake up only to find the first fleeting moments of the day, where you actually have to remind yourself how much you have lost. 
And how much you hurt. 
And you sink back into your mattress…
To weep. Mourn. Wail. Freely. Openly.

-Michael James Dalton

16 Books I read in 2016

I’m getting a little audacious to make this an annual thing, but maybe that’s because that’s the title of the very first book I read this year.

(P.S. You can purchase the book by clicking the photo!)

1.) Audacious by Beth Moore

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Read my review of Audacious here.

2.) I am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai

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I am all about some girl power.  And while many believe gender inequality has been provided to all, there are still so many girls who need to be empowered.  Girls who have believed in themselves because one girl did, named Malala.  Malala’s story is eye-opening, touching, and moving.  Yes, I’m a little behind on this book trend, but I would give this book to any girl 10 and up for them to know what a privilege it is to be educated and what some girls go through just to learn.

3.) Steadfast Love by Lauren Chandler

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Read my review of one of my favorite books I’ve read in a while here.

4.)  Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

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Behind on the book trends again, I know.  I grew up in a world where the word “feminism” was overwhelmingly hushed.  I was a little fearful of finding this book to be an angry feminist ranting about the Church and faith I love, but I absolutely loved this book.
Sarah Bessey shares of story of growing up in a gender neutral world, then navigating moving to the States and being placed under societal norms of the roles of men and women in the Church.  Read it and let me know what you think.

5.) The Sabbath by Abraham Heschel

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This is anything but a light read.  A Rabbi shares traditions and stories passed down within his family, along with principles within Jewish tradition that paint the picture of the deep value of the Sabbath.

6.) Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs

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Read my review of Looking for Lovely here.  Also, this summer I was invited by Annie to come attend a weekend in Nashville, TN walking through all of her important places from this book.  Annie is forever throwing a party for Jesus and it was a joy to be a part of.

7.) A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

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This was the first and one of the only books I could read following losing my Dad suddenly.  C. S. Lewis shares his very real and raw thoughts and wrestlings following having lost his wife to cancer. It put words to a lot of the depths I was feeling and if you have ever grieved anyone, read it.

8.)  A Heart Like His by Beth Moore

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This is a Beth Moore Bible Study on the life of David.  I loved how she brought David’s life to light and made it so real and relatable.  It can be done as a daily Bible Study as the chapters are around 4 or 5 chapters, but I got sucked in and just didn’t really want to sit it down as Beth made David feel like my best friend, she just made him so real.  I’ve since bought it for multiple friends.

9.)  Life Together in Christ by Ruth Haley Barton

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I am a big Ruth Haley Barton fan.  In this book, she highlights the value of Biblical Community using the story of Jesus’ appearances on the Emmaus Road. She wrote so many truths from this passage I hadn’t thought of before and made beautiful connections between this account in the gospels and the modern Christian life.  This is a great resource on the value of other believers in the Christian life.

10.) Conversion & Discipleship by Bill Hull

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This was required reading for a seminary class this fall, but I really loved it.  Bill Hull explained so well that walking with believers does not end once they come to know Christ, but that is only the beginning, highlighting both parts of the Great Commission.  Great read!

11.) Transformational Discipleship by Eric Geiger and Michael Kelley

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This book was similarly a book for a seminary class, but I enjoyed its very practical principles of discipleship presented.  The authors focused on how growth takes place in the life of a believer through various stories of individuals’ transformation.  Also a good read!

12.) Teenage Girls by Ginny Olson

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While we’re on the topic of seminary books, I absolutely loved this one.  While it is a little dated, the modern psychological research included sets this book far above many I have read on ministering to teenage girls.  It did a great job of discerning what ministers should encourage parents to reinforce in each stage and issue of teenage girls’ development and what is important for the minister to recognize.  I would say this is a must read for anyone who works with teenage girls!

13.) Present over Perfect by Shauna Niequist

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This book put words to transformation in my life I had just experienced or was currently undergoing.  I immediately felt like I could better explain myself through beautiful metaphors and stories used in this book.  I have continued to reference it since I’ve read it and bought it for multiple friends.  This book is all about showing up even when you’re imperfect and I think we all need to do so much more of it.

14.) Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham

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I listened to this book on Audible, which I would highly recommend.  Lauren Graham shares her story of how she so deeply identified with the character of Lorelai Gilmore in my favorite TV Show Gilmore Girls.  She watched every season and talked about what was going on in her life.  She shared a little about Parenthood and the shared more about the Revival with interesting details and beautiful stories in between.  Y’all these are my shows and I loved this.

15.) The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

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I mean, just read this.

16.) Hidden Christmas by Tim Keller

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This was a good read for this Christmas, as Tim Keller highlighted many of the not so romantic details about the story of the night in Bethlehem when Jesus was born.  He beautifully wove a good deal of Old Testament anecdotes and details and did a great job of bringing the story to life while shedding a great deal of new light on typically overlooked pieces of the story.


So those are my reads from this year.  Comment below with yours!  Also, click FOLLOW in the left column for book reviews hot of the presses.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!