Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hearts and Other Parts

Meet Baby Girl Webster

She's 28 weeks, scheduled to arrive mid-July, and simply perfect.

According to two Level II ultrasounds (and any number of normal ones) she has a fully functioning pulmonary artery, no known holes between chambers, and is entirely average in every way.


Olive has an implanted part of her heart, a scar down her chest that has been opened twice and will be re-opened again ---- and she's just perfect too.

Man can live abour forty days without food,
about three days without water,
about eight minutes without air,
but only for one second without hope.

Tommy and I have learned a lot over the last few years. Mostly we have learned how to praise God in advance for the work He is doing. We've learned how to see God's perfection - even in the weaknesses of this world. We've learned a bit about trust - and a lot about hope.

Let me assure you that we would never have tried for a second baby if we thought there was a risk of another child with a heart condition. We were prepared for adoption -- but were told by multiple doctors that Olive's condition is an anomoly and not the result of genetics.

But - even knowing all of the medical information - we couldn't help but hope...

My point?

Hope does not disappoint.

No matter what.

This new baby will hopefully arrive healthy --- but will surely face challenges in this life anyway. Perhaps her challenges will never have anything to do with her heart -- but there will be valleys nonetheless.

God's promise in offering us a piece of His perfection in this life is not that we will live a perfect life - but that we can always share in His. That fact brings hope - even in the most hopeless of moments.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. - Romans 5:5

My beautiful sister welcomed her second son last week. Before going in for her c-section, we had the opportunity to hold hands and pray. While I wanted to pray for happiness, peace, wealth, success, friends, good looks, relationships and so many other worthy things for this new baby boy --- the moment only allowed for a brief word.

Our prayer was simply that from this new baby's first moment - to whenever it is that is deemed his last - he would always know the love of God, the love of his parents, and the love of his family.

God is love.

While I think we should pray for all of the good things we want for our children - after all, God wants to hear our desires - the ultimate truth is that I want my children to know love.

They come from love.

God desires for them to know love every single one of their days.

And to love one day they will return.

As this pregnancy enters the final stretch - I will continue to rest certain in the fact that hope does not disappoint. I will hope for a multitude of good things for this sweet baby girl -- but mostly that she will never live a day apart from love.

Perfect love.

Friday, November 12, 2010

On the Fence

Our trip to the cardiologist today confirmed this delightful fact: 2010 will be the first year of Olive's life without open heart surgery!

We are grateful to so many of you for your prayers, good thoughts, and encouraging words. For six months we have been "watching & waiting" for this followup appointment -- and one of three possible bits of news. We received the best of the choices - which is that we will check again in 6 months. As expected, the constriction in Olive's implanted artery remains. Dr. Long explained it this way: "She is walking a fence that we are not comfortable with. I had expected to see her on the wrong side of the fence at this visit -- it turns out, she is still sitting on the fence."

While we would prefer that she not be anywhere near the damn fence -- sitting on it is better than climbing over. The six months we have been given will bring us just before Olive's 3rd birthday. She will be bigger, stronger, and even healthier than she already is. We will prepare ourselves during these months for whatever phase we enter next.

I know I say this all the time, but thanks for the prayers. We don't believe that praying is like playing the lottery; afterall, there's no lucky ticket and whomever has the most doesn't necessarily win. What we do believe is that God is honored by the process.

We want our lives to honor God - and we want our girl's life to do the same.

We're thankful for the thoughts & well wishes from our friends who are atheists, agnostics, and practioners of any number of faiths. For us, your love communicates the universal and the sublime. It is awe inspiring and humbling to be the recipients of great care.

Now we wait another six months for our next bit of news. We may discover that the summer brings another open heart surgery. We may discover that we have more time for our girl to grow before we cross that bridge again. The bottom line is that we aren't in charge of either of those outcomes. We are in charge of pouring out ridiculous love on the sweetest girl we know -- so we will move forward with that plan and find a million reasons to be thankful for this day --- and the next.

With Love & Gratitude,

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Every Right In The World

From Tommy:

Do you forgive? Do you know how to really forgive someone? I’m not sure I do.

We are commanded to forgive. Jesus said in Colossians 13, "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have with one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Whatever grievances. Not just the big obvious ones. That's hard. The small grievances seem to be hardest for me. I read a blog today written by a minister I admire; in fact, I had the chance to hear her preach last weekend in DC. Her blog talks about forgiving a man she strongly disagrees with – even though his speech and actions are hateful, cruel, and have even caused the death of another human being. The love she has for him is a Christ-driven love – one that reflects his creation as a child of God. WOW. She is a better person than I am. My forgiveness problem is worse than that, though. Not only do I struggle with forgiving people for big things, I can't seem to forgive folks for really little things that annoy me – or seem decidedly off mission for Christians. “Church people” can be the most difficult. Too many people look at their jobs in the church as just that – jobs. Christ and the opportunity to advance the Gospel often seem second (or worse) to individual agendas and pride. My thoughts turn even now to the many ways I could – and “should” tell them how I think they are wrong and what fools I think they are.

In fact, I have every right in the world to retaliate in some way.

The problem is that I have no right in Christ.

My choice is to follow the world – or be more of the man God made me to be.

Love your enemies, Jesus said. And if we believe in the authority of Christ, then I think it means we do to our enemies what Colossians 13 says...bear with them.

I can't help but wonder how we (I) live a Godly life if we (I) can't forgive. Also, how do they (I) live with themselves (myself) after treating others the way they (I) have – without asking for forgiveness. God has put up with a lot from me. So have other people. I suppose I can bear with a few people myself…

You know, there are not a lot of differences between Christians and non-Christians. Practically speaking, we don’t live very different lives. That’s a problem. There should be a remarkable difference. It’s the reason the mission of the church is often headed the wrong direction. It’s the reason that there is often conflict within church leadership. Our goal has become being “right” more than it is to love one another.

We need to be different. I want to be different. I am guilty of everything that bothers me about other people – and worse. “Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst” (1 Tim 1:15). I need to accept God’s forgiveness for my mistakes – and I need to let other people off the hook too.
It’s hard to do - but I feel loved – and I even want the people that trouble me to feel loved as well. So I have to make a choice. Lord, help me to forgive and be a better person.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010


On Independence Day Tommy and I had the beautiful opportunity to worship at a great church in Vienna, VA. The service was tremendous - full of powerful music, liturgy, and opportunities to hear the Word. More importantly, neither of us have ever visited a church where we have felt more welcome. From the moment we walked in, people were eager to shake our hands, introduce themselves, and ask a bit about us. It wasn't overwhelming or forced, and we weren't asked to stand or otherwise be singled out, we were just welcomed by a people clearly eager to share "their" church with a couple of outsiders. It was a great opportunity for us to enjoy worship together as a family -- and to see incredible people doing God's work in a different way in a different place.

We've followed the blog of that church's pastor for some time - and have come to admire him and his faith. Since we are always in a time of discernment and prayer about where/how God is leading us, we were happy to visit the church, worship, and just think. The sermon and the experience was powerful for both of us -- and we continue to process this season of our life through all that we have seen and heard in recent days and weeks.

The big question that we are challenged by is how we can make choices that lead us to God's best for our lives. "Good" is lovely, comfortable, and something we are capable of managing with some ease --- but is it God's best for our ministry, marriage, or family? The best we can do to answer that question is to think, pray, read, talk about it, and ask some people that we trust to help us in those activities. God's Word is as alive as it has ever been, and He is as vocal with us as he was with the figures on Sunday School walls -- so listening and being open to what we see and hear is a great place to start.

I have some friends who believe that people who believe in the authority of God and the worthiness of His Word and his work - lack the ability to think rationally. The suggestion is that all of us Christians are the same -- and that we are so desperate for comfort and hope -- that we blindly believe a myth rather than actually use logic.

Obviously I disagree. A blind adherence to religion may lack rational thought -- but a living faith requires a constant push & pull. I don't believe a series of facts - I believe in a relationship, a love, and a grace that cannot be "proven" scientifically any more than you can "prove" that you love your spouse, your Mom, or your child.

While faith is the assurance of things hoped for -- it is also the result of tangible experience, awareness, thought, reading, arguing...and doubt.

What is faith? It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see. -Hebrews 11:1

But he has always given evidence of his existence by the good things he does: he gives you rain from heaven and crops at the right times; he gives you food and fills your hearts with happiness."-Acts 14:7

For me, faith is not clean and pretty -- nor is it easy. It does involve an aspect of blindness -- just like my love for my husband, daughter, and family does -- but mostly it is a dynamic process.

Our daughter just celebrated her 2nd birthday. She's incredible. We loved partying with her and thinking about how we could make the occasion special. She is totally dependent on us -- and the foundation for how she feels about herself and her place in the world is being created right now -- before she even has a memory to record it. I heard someone recently explain that there is no reason to make a big deal out of birthdays or other events until kids are older - since they can't remember it anyway. I couldn't disagree more. Olive's brain is making more connections right now than it ever will again. Her experiences and interactions are crucial to the way she develops as a person. I don't care if she remembers a single detail of any one party, song, event, expression, or cuddle --- I do care that she lives her life aware of the fact that she has always been endlessly loved -- and part of a community of people who are willing to make a big deal about life. I care that she knows how to pour herself out for other people -- through service, expressions, and events. Besides, this life is temporary (James 4:14). What are we waiting for to celebrate anything we can?

The big deal for Tommy and me in our continuing challenge to be more of the people God wants us to be --and to live out His best -- is to realize and embrace the fact that we are dependent on God -- and that the formation of who we are continues under His care. Our desires for our daughter pale in comparison to God's desires for His children. So as we continue to think, pray, and seek where He wants us right now, we celebrate our independence by living dependent on Him.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Stone of Help

Stone of Help
Our pastor, a dear friend and leader, recently moved to a new job in the United Methodist Church. His work in our lives was powerful, sincere, and full of compassion and grace. He was a servant to so many people - and deserving of a parade, skywriting, or made-for-tv-movie. His humility, and our church budget, didn't allow for those accolades, however, ---- so we gave him a pile of rocks instead.

Rocks are powerful. They appear throughout the Hebrew Bible as demonstrations of strength, promise, and solidity. Of of my favorite moments is when Samuel sets a stone in the ground as a marker of the help God has provided.

Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Jeshanah, and named it Ebenezer; for he said, "Thus far the LORD has helped us." (1 Samuel 7:12 NRSV)

God's help is worth marking -- with a word of thanks, a quiet prayer, a party, a worship service, a barbaric yelp, an altar, a covenant, an act of service... or a vase full of rocks.

Ebenezers can look any number of ways. Our lives of course, built on the rock of our strength (Psalms 62:7), are the greatest offering we can raise.

The rocks in this vase are the symbols of each individual member of our congregation -- and they carry very specific prayers for our pastor and his family. They are mighty -- and the "strongest" gift we could give a man who has poured himself out for us.

On this Father's Day -- I want to mark with gratitude the love of my pastor, my incredible father, my amazing husband, and the God who created us to live in relationship with one another.

Here I raise mine ebenezer, hither by thy help I'm come...

Thursday, May 27, 2010


You were born an original. Don't die a copy. ~John Mason

Elizabeth, one of my dearest friends here in Georgia, made a statement last year that really sticks with me. She had been growing in her faith and watching our little group of friends as we worked out our business with God -- and one night she said, "I see how God works weird in other people's lives, and it occurs to me that He might just work weird through me too."

I love that. It's not particularly profound -- but it really resonates with me. My life has been weird. My path from one thing to the next has been weird. My friendships, body, choices, humor, and relationships have been weird too. While it's not huge -- I've realized that I've always carried a wee bit of bitterness toward God about the fact that my life seems to be the weird one.

What I'm learning in this season of my life - and at this place in ministry - is that I'm not alone. Most people think their lives are weird too. We've believed the lie that "everyone" moves through one stage to the next with little resistance. The truth is that few people do. The "weird" path - turns out to be the average one.

The great news about the fact that our lives are weird -- is that God is in the specific business of dealing with weirdos. Jesus chose twelve people to stick tight with him when he stepped out to do some radical "weird" work. A few of his group were fishermen, some of them were related, one of them collected taxes, a few of them never seemed to "get it", others were great leaders, there were a couple enigmas in the mix, and all of them were definitely sinners -- even to the point of betrayal. Clearly "weird" was something Jesus felt comfortable being around.

If you have anything really valuable to contribute to the world it will come through the expression of your own personality, that single spark of divinity that sets you off and makes you different from every other living creature. -Bruce Barton

I love that my friends are eclectic, as is my reading, my politics, my taste, my path, and my faith. It's all real, and it's me, and it seems to be something God is willing to work through. I am in process -- and process isn't always pretty.

But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it. -Numbers 14:24

Friday, May 7, 2010


There's nothing like a mama-hug. -Terri Guillemets

My mother is coming next week for a 6-day visit. I can hardly wait.

I'm ready for a mama hug.

(Mom & Great Uncle Richard)
My Mom is extraordinary -- easily one of the greatest gifts God has given me. While there are a million compliments I could pay my mother, the one that encompasses them all is to say that she truly understands grace. I have watched my mom behave humbly, choose not to say what she has every right to say, offer a new perspective when something seems daunting or painful, and forgive any number of people for any number of things -- without another word about it. If Mom happens to read this post, she will surely be embarrassed - and think of the times when she didn't quite hit the mark on one of those things I just mentioned. I love when she does that. She is not righteous - nor is she perfect. But the world doesn't need perfect mothers. The world needs mothers who understand unconditional love. I'm lucky enough to have one who does.

My worth has never been at stake. In the thousands of ways I have fallen short over the last 32 years, and the many consequences and "punishments" I have carried as a result, I have never once wondered if I was still loved and of immeasurable worth. Why? Because my mother told me so. Long before I knew the words to "Jesus Loves Me" or had the opportunity to read and understand the Word - I had a mother whose grace was running ahead of my choices. I first met Christ in the form of two welcoming arms, an encouraging word, a kind gesture, and a knowledge that there was nothing I could ever do to separate myself from her love.

The God-light in my mother has lit the way for me to know that such love does exist.
There is nothing greater than love - and yet it cannot be measured, quantified, or explained. Prove that love is real. Follow the scientific method and search for a tangible way to demonstrate the reality of love - and you will come up short. And yet - it is the most real thing in life. At the end of the day, love is all I really care about. I guess I have to call that faith.

Grace is the demonstration of true love.

Justice is getting what you deserve.
Forgiveness is not getting what you deserve.
Grace is getting what you never deserved in the first place.
My mom has offered me a million clean slates, and because of her love, I can fathom the love of a Savior.
Thanks, Mom. I love you.
Happy Mothers Day!

(My other favorite mothers -- my sisters!)