Thursday, September 29, 2011


Aaron and I are saving up for a trip to see my sister and her family next summer.

Thinking about saving for the trip has brought some questions to mind about how I spend my money. I'm not a saver. I'm a spender. I always tell people that if I were rich and didn't follow Jesus, I would shop ALL THE TIME. I would buy so many clothes and pretty things that I wouldn't know what to do with them all. I love shopping.

But we're not rich, and I happen to believe in a God who asks us to store up treasure in heaven. So that kind of puts two dampers on the life-long shopping spree idea.

We do have enough wiggle room in the budget for me to shop sometimes. The truth is, I don't buy with very much wisdom or discretion. God is using my desire to visit my sister and my niece and nephew to show me my weakness in this area.

A few questions arose out of all these thoughts. I'm going to ask these questions before I buy.

1. Will I be using this/still think it's cool in a year?

2. Do I want it more than a trip to see Rachel?

3. Do I want it because of a sinful motive (pride, vanity)?

4. Will it foster idolatry in an area I am already weak in?

If you have any more good questions to ask about spending or any good saving tips, send 'em our way!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

notes from the grieving hour

Various journalings and quotes from the last week. Transparent and raw and still the middle of the story. The ending is yet to come. Praise Him.

"Yesterday was a hard day with thinking about my dear ones moving. I broke into tears several times. Jesus, this feels like a breakup or a death. The sorrow of losing that person from everyday life. It sucks. I am not sure I want this part of following You. I've always read Your words in the gospels about forsaking family as going--and I came to a place of surrender in saying, 'I will go, I will give up that comfort and that gift and the security of family for You, Jesus.' But I guess in the going, I felt it was still my choice a little, and here, there is no choice. The being left is the part I did not reckon for.

Oh what new things do You want to teach us, Lord--the new sacrifice, the new cut, the new ache--these are to conform us to Your image. I know in the end, though I wrestle and grapple, the only answer left to me is the 'yes.' Yes, I have counted the cost of being left, and You and Your Kingdom are still worth it.

Please bring me to that place soon. It is so hard. But You know. You know the going (Incarnation) and the being left (naked on a cross)."

"Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity." (Heb 2:14)

"He had to be made like His brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest." (Heb 2:17)

"Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need." (Heb 4:16)

"What if they die?
What if I never see them again?
What if they hurt?
What if they forget me?

Was it worth it to love them? Absolutely. I would not take back a single day of loving them, being near them. Though it will rip harder, it is worth it.

Go before them, O God of Jacob. You who prepare the way for thousands of years, go before them. And make them as strong and courageous as Joshua."

"I sobbed three times today. The memories of those precious ones are everywhere. Yesterday, I asked You,

WHY? Why do You have to use people to accomplish the spread of Your Kingdom? Why couldn't You just use angels or visions or whatever? There's infinite ways You could think of. You're God.

Why does it have to be lives, four lives that matter very much to a small circle left in a small town in North America?

The Kingdom of God advances through sacrifice and tears
and hearts breaking
and even blood.

I do not know why this is the template, but it is."

"God's economy is strange....But I am a catechized lady and I know: He is He who fills the shuttle, who plies the loom, and has a billion strands to weave into His tapestry. Here are Rachel and Leah on one level, conniving and competing for Jacob's love. And when the smoke clears, here is God on another level, and the 12 tribes of Israel standing all in a row. He is building His kingdom. I know it in my head...and I would trade all of that sanctification just to have you back for one day. But that's because I'm finite and sinful and see but through a glass darkly." (Andree Seu)

"I believe you'll outlive this pain in your heart
And you'll gain such a strength from what is tearing you apart
It's gonna be all right
It's gonna be all right" (Sara Groves)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

our joy

"I remember walking these halls," I whisper to Aaron. Standard gray concrete-block walls, blue speckled tile floor, a ramp matted in brown rubber. I'm in eighth grade again, wearing that army green sweater and braces, not sure of where to part my hair. My eyebrows need plucking, but who knows how to pluck their eyebrows in eight grade?

It's funny how fresh the memories feel, how these halls unscrew memory jars I haven't touched in years. We're heading to the gym to hang with middle schoolers during their free period. Middle school, though I am near 27 now, slams me with all the emotion of that tough season: insecurity, self-consciousness, uncertainty.

The gym is crowded. The boys and the athletic girls are bouncing around basketballs, forming pick-up games at either end of the court. The girls that aren't athletic walk the perimeter in groups of three or four. I spot a couple of girls I know from K-Life, and I am relieved. No one wants to be alone in that gym, not even me. We chat a few minutes, and they continue ambling, round and round, fading into free period with all their might.

She sits alone on the bleachers, a short girl with strawberry blonde hair and a red t-shirt.

"Hi, I'm Lara. What's your name?"

Her name is Michelle, and for a girl sitting solo on a creaky wooden seat, she likes to talk. "I scrapbooked with my mom Saturday, and we scrapbooked all day, from 8 to 6:30, and finally, I was like, 'Mom, you have to stop scrapbooking!' I had to make her stop, I was just so tired of scrapbooking."

I laughed.

We talk of other things, deeper things, unanswered questions her young life already pulls behind her like a heavy wagon. I am surprised she is sharing so openly, me a stranger fifteen minutes ago. I am surprised by her confession that it is hard for her to make friends. She is spunky, she is funny, she is sweet. She has a beautiful smile.

She is the beloved, you know. She is a masterpiece wrought by Him.

Middle school is not the place to showcase masterpieces. Here, you just want to blend in, look like the cool kids, hit the ball when it's time for P.E.

"Middle school will be over soon," I want to tell her. "And there's a great, huge, loving God so much bigger than this hot gym. He knows your name and calls to you. And though you can't believe it yet, His opinion of you is the final answer, not these estimations here and now."

I don't say it, for the bell has rung, and the herd drifts to the double doors, back to class. "I'll see you next time, girl," I say, and she smiles and filters into the crowd.

On my run later, I pray. I pray hard for her precious, innocent heart. I'm left with a glorious weight, a reminder pressed hard into my heart like a fossil. His image is in us. In all the people, everywhere.

I could cry with the joy of this. It is not a project, not a list of to-do. It is His life spouting out of us: the privilege of seeing humanity as He does, the gift of telling His story, the best story.

That story, it can seep strong, seep through the strongest of standard gray concrete walls.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

respect (and a little meat doesn't hurt either)

I know it's the thesis of untold Christian marriage books, making it a little cliche, but it's also straight from the Bible and true in our marriage. So, cliche or not, here we go.

Girls thrive on love; guys thrive on respect.

I love love...ooey gooey gushy mushy adoring love. If Aaron gave me a note every morning detailing what he loved about me, I would fly about on wings all day. (He does write me a lot of sweet notes, by the way.)

So naturally, when we first got married, I made sure to shower him with every ounce of the sweet nothings I myself hoped for. "I love you, honey." "I love you sooo much, honey." "You're so handsome, baby." (Are you rolling your eyes yet?) But these things don't fill him up or encourage him the way they do for me.

The tank-filler for him is respect. And more in action than in word. Every guy is different--I soon discovered that Aaron doesn't appreciate affirmation in public. If I brag on him in front of people, it just embarrasses him. I don't get that; I'd love the whole world to know how awesome I am. So I tell him in private. "I really respect you for the wisdom with which you make decisions." He knows I mean it when I don't turn around and undercut his next decision. "I respect you, honey, but that's a really dumb choice, and here, let me give you five reasons why my choice is better." Uh, no.

I'm like a jerky, tipsy, chubby (had to throw that adjective in there) baby learning to walk when it comes to respect. I get a couple steps out, and then I fall splat on my face and decide to throw a fit about it. Yeah. So I have a lot to learn.

There's respect, and then there's meat. My sister was telling me the other day about how much protein a pregnant woman has to eat. (Mom and Dad, I'm not pregnant.) "You'll have to chart your protein, Lara, or you won't get enough. You'll need so much protein," she said. Aaron overheard, and he perked up quicker than a dog that just saw a squirrel.

"Babe! Maybe you should get pregnant, and then we can eat meat every day!" His eyes were shining like a car waxed by the Karate Kid. (Great simile, eh?)

Poor guy. He married a girl that could become a vegetarian any day and never look back. I need to give the guy more beef and bacon. I'm pretty sure chicken only counts as a half-meat to most guys.

He had a birthday last week, and we had STEAK. He nearly cried.

So moved.

There you have it ladies. I've only been married for a couple years, so take it from the mouth of babes...

Respect and steak.

The secret to a happy marriage.

Monday, September 5, 2011

65 years

65 years ago,

  • It's A Wonderful Life was made
  • gas cost 21 cents a gallon
  • Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby crooned
  • the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series
  • the Slinky was one year old
  • Harry S. Truman was president
  • women wore dresses and tight curls
  • men defined dapper

and my grandparents, Carroll Milton Casey and Marcella Jean Pinnick, tied the knot on a Sunday morning.

She wore a smart two-piece suit, and he wore a suit that was "the most beautiful shade of blue." They were married in a church 6 miles away from her small town. There was no separate room for the bride to wait, so she and her attendant, Ruby, huddled behind the church's front door. Grandpa stood at the front with the pastor and hoped that Grandma were hear the first chord of the organ, her signal to begin walking. Ruby wouldn't walk the aisle herself, so Grandma went down with her!

We celebrated my grandparents' 65th wedding anniversary last weekend. 65 years is a long time. The changes they've seen over the span of their marriage are many. But the God they serve has not changed. His love is constant over miles of inflation and progress and heartache and a world spinning and a family growing and swelling. It was just two people that early fall day in Kansas, and now it's 21 people and counting. We celebrate, and under everything--the laughter and jokes and moments of tension--the Everlasting Arms hold strong, and there's grace, grace enough to outlast the next 65 years.

Still looks pretty dapper in a suit, doesn't he?

And she looks lovely yet.

Happy 65th Anniversary, Grandma and Grandpa! We love you!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

when the best you have reminds you of what's better

Have you ever tried to get a two year old and a four year old to smile just so?

It's nearly impossible.

This was the best we could wrangle, and this after five tries.

I'm making a memory book for my niece and nephew. Soon, they will live in another country. I suppose the day count is down to the twenties, but I'm not counting. My coping mechanism right now is avoidance, so I try not to dwell on the particulars. September 26? One big fat abstraction.

As you can gather from last night's photo op, the little ones were feeling a bit persnickety. My sister is trying to help them process this big change, but it's hard for a tiny heart to put words to emotions. So they're a little off, and I want to squeeze them close in a forever hug, but when you're a little off, the last thing you want is a perpetual cuddle.

This morning, before the sun capped the treetops and broke blazing hot, I sat on the porch swing praying. "They don't even understand how I love them, Lord," I scribbled with my favorite pen. "I want them to understand. The width, the tenderness, the fierceness I feel for them. I want this knowledge to cocoon them shoulder to shoulder."

And the quiet reply, "Isn't that how I feel?"

It's the too-good tale we are told but half dare to believe: that a heavenly Father's love would exceed our best earthly love.

I think of how I love Abby and Drew. I physically ache with love for them, and it's hard to conceive of a love stronger.

But here I am with my scaly fish, and there He is with a gift that crushes darkness and whispers truth and overwhelms with life (Luke 11: 11-12).

He aches for us to know. As I bend over my precious ones, yearning for them to get the love that billows over and rushes under them, He bends lower, yearns harder.

My deepest desire for Abby and Drew is that they know and love Christ. Right now, their parents make a decision that sprouts from this soil, and their children will grow up in the shadow of that choice. What a beautiful thing! Does it hurt my heart? Yes. Has the grieving just begun? Yes. Would I ever keep them from such a sweet inheritance, from their earliest memories forming under the awning of living sacrifice? Never.

I love you, my dear ones.

And in my meager love,

I remember