Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Moving Back in with Mom and Dad

In 2016 I left my job and moved back in with my parents.

Sometimes people ask me how it is, living at home.

My honest answer is that it is wonderful and difficult and exactly where I need to be.

Right now I want to talk about why it is difficult, and what I am learning about myself, about grace, and about God through it all.

I did not dream of turning 31 while living with my parents, not paying rent.  I feel this stab inside when I write that.  That stab is my pride being put to death, I think.  That stab is my heart learning to be humble, and learning to trust my Heavenly Father.

I cannot begin to say how grateful I am to have  parents who welcome me back with open arms, who ask for nothing, who appreciate it when I cook dinner but do not need me to.  I might be able to serve in small ways but I am not in a position to contribute anything they need.  I might not be useless but I cannot really say I'm all that useful either.  That is incredibly humbling and incredibly frustrating.

The difficulty of moving back home has nothing to do with my parents.  It has nothing to do with there being 8 people living here.  It has nothing to do with who snores or who never washes dishes or who plays awful music.

The difficulty is about me.

What is difficult is that I took a lot of pride in having a career and living on my own.  What is difficult is that I placed some of my own WORTH in whether or not I was pulling my own weight and contributing my equal share.  I value my independence.  And all at once, those things were no longer there.  In their absence, I saw what was pride, what was sin.

Even  though God led me there, he did not force my hand.  I chose this.  And in doing so, I became aware of all the things I tend to find my identity in: my job, my career, my accomplishments, recognition by others, my independence.  All of these are gifts, but they are not who I am.  God began to point out all the pride that I used to protect myself and weigh myself as worthy.  He shaved all that away until I was exposed.  I felt helpless.  I imagine a dog wearing a cone maybe feels the same way.
My sister's dog in the cone of shame

And although I pray I will not be depending on my parents for very long, I admit, painfully, that I am dependent.  I am receiving their love and generosity without being able to contribute to it with any equality.

And I am reminded of the Gospel.  I was DEAD in my sins and Jesus saved me.  I was and am completely unable to save myself.

I am receiving the grace and love of God without being able to contribute to it.

I can serve God, but he does not need me to.  Just like with my parents, I serve God because I love him and because he first loved me even though I cannot earn anything by it.

With my parents, this time of dependence is temporary, and through it, God is tearing down pride and teaching me to find my identity in Jesus alone.  But with God, my Father, my dependence should be ALWAYS.  He says to become like a little child.  And he reminds me constantly that I do not have to do anything to earn his love or favor.  Jesus already paid for my sins with his very blood because he loves me.  Now I get to live my life taking part in his great plan for redemption.  He doesn't need me, but he invites me into it because he wants me.

I believe God intended for me to move home for multiple reasons, but I did not expect that the most important reason would be for me to live out a concrete picture of what it means to be a child of God.  For years I could have recited the gospel to you, but this year I am beginning to understand it on a whole new level.

Jesus has taken the weight off my shoulders, all the expectations that I have put on myself or have accepted from others, and reminds me that he called out from the cross, "It is finished."  He lived the perfect life I could never live and died in my place so that I could walk with the freedom of a child of God.  And he invites me to place my identity in that.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


I was in a group of people.  Most I had just met for the first time.  One of the guys had just finished his second glass of wine during halftime of the football game we were watching when he steered his conversation away from football and into psychology.  He began by talking about how he always found psychology class interesting and rattled off some of what he had learned.  Gradually, his discussion about the study of human bonding became a story about his own family.  It was not the first time in my life when I saw a little wine reveal what lies at the depth of a man's heart.

The man telling the story has three young kids.  Soon after his oldest was born, he was deployed and missed much of her first two years of life.  Now he watches his daughter run to her mom, run to her grandfather, but never run to him, her own father.  He laments having missed the crucial time he had to bond with his newborn daughter.  His other kids run to him, respond with excitement when he gets home, but not his daughter.  She respects him, follows his rules, responds to his discipline, but she does not go to him, does not rush into his arms, or climb into his lap.

He blames his deployment.  He explains it with psychology.  Others might say that some kids are just like that- they run to one parent over the other.  Still, I could tell it breaks his heart a little, eats at him a little.

Good fathers love their children.  They want to spend time with them.  They want their daughters and sons to run into their arms- when they are happy, sad, hurt, or sick.  I am sure the man is glad that his daughter runs to good people, but that does not stop him from wanting to be the person she runs to.

After hearing that story, I lay awake praying for that family but also knowing that God's heart breaks when we do not run to him.  If a human father's heart breaks, how much greater does God want us to run to him.

Even when we follow his rules and respond to his discipline, God still says, "but what I really want most is for you to come to me, spend time with me, know me."

Now, when I restlessly make to-do lists and fill my time with tasks rather than sit in prayer or when I text friends and google questions without asking God first, I think about that dad's story.  Sometimes it's difficult to see God as father because I don't physically see him.  Unlike the man's little daughter who runs to her grandfather even though she sees her dad sitting on the other side of the room, I don't literally see God watching me as I run to everyone and everything but him.  But he's there.  And he sees me.  He sees us.  And he loves us more than anyone, and he can give us much more.

We run to a lot of things and people.  But just like a good father, God loved us first, and he loves us most. Whatever you have done, he sees us as his little children, and what he offers is all that is good.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Ten Firsts of 2016

So if I am being honest, 2016 was a difficult year.  Friends and family lost their children.  The nation and world saw violence and hatred, terrorism and division.  Even so,  I believe that there is hope, and I look forward to a new year.  Bring it on 2017.

I am not very good at New Year's Resolutions, so I made a resolution once to give them up.  Most successful New Years resolution I have ever made!

For the past few New Years Eves, I have instead made a bucket list for the coming year.  It has been an exciting encouragement to try new things, learn new skills, and visit new places.  It gives me an opportunity to dream with God about some of the new things he has for me.  What I have learned is he has so much more than I can imagine.  I realized that 2016 was a year of many firsts for me, and I decided to pick the top ten firsts of this year and give thanks to God for them.  (Some that didn't quite make the list include: first time planting a coconut tree, first visit to Arkansas, and first time on a stand up paddleboard.)

You don't have to read this whole post, but feel free to browse the photos!

Top Ten Firsts of 2016

First time setting a Christmas tree on fire.
My brother and niece watching the blaze.
Best bonfire and another moment spent enjoying the outdoors with my first best friend and partner in adventure, my brother Mike.

First time two-stepping with a stranger.

Cute newborn piglets at the Houston rodeo

A handsome stranger too.  It was also my first time at a Texas rodeo, Houston rodeo with Kenny Chesney as the performer.  I owe the memorable and very-Texas experience to my friend Karen Crawford, who truly has a heart the size of her state.

First etsy shop.

Making wooden signs with my assistant artisan.

In the spring, I assigned one of my seniors a fourth quarter project of creating her own Etsy shop.  So, in order to teach it, I created one too.  It isn't very lucrative, but it has been a great way to keep me in touch with an important part of how God created me- a maker and artist.

First film festival.

There is arguably no bigger movie fan and critic than my brother Kevin.  So when visiting him in Texas this year, we checked out Austin's South by Southwest (SXSW) film festival.  We saw some famous actors walking about, attended the first public showing of "Keanu," saw street performers and movie fans from across the globe as we roamed the city, and because of Daylight Savings, got back to our hotel around 4AM.

First time outside rock climbing.
This was on my 2016 bucket list!  I went twice, but my first time was with my niece.  I think it was her first climb outside too!

First blind date.

Nothing like having some risk in my love life.  This year, I went on my first true blind date.  I walked into a restaurant knowing his height and hair color.  Overall the night was a pleasant surprise, and it was a fun adventure.

First sunrise summit.

This is one of the best memories of my life.  My sister Michelle and I hiked in the dark one summer morning and made it to the top of Mount Monadnock to see the perfect sunrise.  If you know me, you know that there is no greater cathedral that makes me stand in awe of the Creator than the beautiful work he created.  And more perfect than an orchestra beginning a great piece, the day began with the first signs of pink glow on the dark edge of horizon.  I have seen many sunrises, but not sitting atop the world.  "Then sings my soul, my Savior God to Thee, how great Thou art.  How great Thou art."

First time leaving a job without a plan.


This doesn't seem like it should make a top ten, but it holds #3 because God is continually teaching me about trusting him, living by faith, and allowing Him to write my story.  I do not know what comes next, but I trust a God who is infinitely good and who loves me completely.

First snowmobile ride in order to ski backcountry powder.

This year, I spent  some of my spring break visiting my cousin Joseph in Colorado.  My favorite part of the trip was riding up on snowmobiles in order to ski some untouched snow.  The feeling of floating through powder is UNREAL and getting to go on an adventure with my cousin, the closest thing to having a big brother, made it even better.


And my favorite FIRST of 2016 is....

First nephew.

Connor William Lee was born this year, and I am so grateful to get to know my first nephew.  During his first year of life, Connor had a scary infection that brought him to Children's hospital.  As we prayed for his life and cried out to God, I learned that it is only by God's hand and his mercy that life is sustained.  We live in a sick and broken and dying world, and God, and God alone is the life-giver.  Life is a gift, and I am grateful for the little life of Connor.  He is already holding his own in the midst of a very strong Lee girl tribe.  At 9 months, he is walking and yelling and trying to keep up.

Here's to the new! 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Two Nights in a Monastery

Last month, I spent two nights at a Benedictine monastery.  Someone reacted with: "Why would you do that to yourself?"  Apparently, not everyone thinks hanging out at a monastery sounds like a good time.  I took a much needed spiritual retreat, alone, and it was wonderful.  WONDERFUL.  To run down farmland hills and hike through the woods to a stone chapel and drink coffee in view of the mountains is all medicine to my soul.  But the best part was when my racing gerbil-wheel thoughts finally ebbed away, and I could be alone with God, contemplate how good and marvelous and big he is, and know his peace.  I was reminded that life is not about me, that it is God's epic story we are living.

In this year that God has given me for rest, I have done a mediocre job of being restful.  So after months of declaring that I need a retreat, I finally followed through.  I was aching for time alone for prayer and depth and quiet, and I needed to physically pull myself out of my environment, put my phone on airplane mode, and be alone.

At the door of the stone chapel in the woods.

Two things I learned:

1.  In Jesus, all things hold together.  I sat on the hill under perfect blue skies looking out to the mountains in the afternoon.  By the time the sun set, the sky was almost covered, brushed across with purple-gray clouds.  The cloudless sunny day had begun to look stormy in a very short time.  But everything in my tiny spot on earth was created by and held together by God himself.  Multiply that by every tiny spot on the globe.  He knows every sparrow that falls to the ground.  He knows how many hairs are on my head.  God is much much bigger than I usually allow myself to think.  How can I worry?  Why do I fear?  When my life changes from blue skies to stormy, do I not know God is in just as much control?  And (what I need to ask myself daily) why do I think for a moment that this life is about me?  I'm so tiny!

2.  "They lack nothing."  I shared this with a few people last month, but while praying for the group of Catholic monks who live at the monastery, that sentence burned in my heart.  I looked at their lives that so obviously lacked many things we think we need.  They each take a vow of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  They live with few possessions.  They will never marry or enjoy sexual intimacy.  They do not come and go and choose as they please.  Yet, they have declared that Jesus is sufficient.  Indeed, He is, and they lack nothing.  The most well-known Psalm begins, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."  Even some translations say, "I lack nothing."

Although I know in my head that God is enough, and can quote scripture that says so, sometimes I do not feel that way.  Sometimes I act as though he is not sufficient.  And for the single girl, to see this group of men called to lifelong singleness, living and loving in a community of faith, and declaring with their lives: God is sufficient, well, it made my heart soar because I knew with my whole being that it was true.  Because in Christ, I lack nothing.  To live for him is the greatest joy and fulfillment possible, and I was grateful to be refreshed in the mission and adventure that is this life with Him.

If you read this, and you are thinking that you need a retreat, do it!  I believe God is calling many of us, beckoning, "Spend time with me."  Some of you have babies and two nights away is not possible.  Carve out an hour.  I encourage you to unplug.  It is amazing how much our technology contributes to our racing thoughts.

Sometimes I complain that I talk and talk and talk and God isn't answering.  Maybe I need to be quiet, be still, and listen more.  I busy myself when I suffer from a fear of missing out, but after my stay at the monastery, I wonder if maybe I'm missing out on much much more.

Monday, December 12, 2016


When I was almost 12, my Auntie Liz became a mom.  My cousin Jen was born, and one of my favorite people began the journey as a mother after almost 20 years of being an auntie first.

My mother is the youngest of 6 girls, so let's just say I have a lot of aunties.  And in my world, it also means that I have had the privilege to grow up around strong, beautiful, courageous, and loving women my entire life.  But I only REMEMBER one auntie being an auntie and not yet a mom, and there is something special about having an auntie like that.

Now that I am an auntie who hopes God will allow me to be a mother someday, I feel like I understand it all a little more.  Being an auntie is something that brings me far more joy than it ever does heartache. I think back to all my memories of my Auntie Liz visiting us.  I remember once, one of my cousins confiding in me, telling me that Auntie Liz was her favorite auntie.  "You can't have a favorite," I told her, but I understood that aunties who were not moms yet always had free hands to hold and adventures to share and presents to give.  And even if I didn't have a favorite, it was still something special.

I remember as a teenager telling a friend that I think it is better to become an auntie before becoming a mom,  I remember trying to express how special I thought it was.   "That won't be me though.  I will probably be the first to have kids."  I am pretty sure that in the moment I said that, I was recalling the mental picture of my brother Mike sitting and farting on my other siblings.  I reflected silently that Mike was probably too immature to get married and have kids for a long long LONG time.  But teenage brothers do grow up, and God often surprises us.

So this is my ode to being an auntie first.  A gift I wished for and never thought I would get.  I learn new things everyday.  I admire my brother and my sister who have gone before into the world of parenting, and watch as they grow into the brave, strong, and beautiful father and mother they were created to be.  And perhaps my favorite part of being an auntie is knowing the newest and smallest people in my life, who remind me not to take myself too seriously, to stop to pick up an acorn long enough to marvel at it, that I'm not too old to make a snow angel in the first inch of snow, and that the world is full of small miracles if I only take some time to look.