The Subject of the Art 37/40

Our beloved friend, and once business partner, Jon Willis masterminded a family portrait experience that has become a tradition for our family. He shares his talent at creating beautiful experiences and captures us as our authentic selves somehow. He makes art with his camera. And we get to be the subject of it.

Over the years, getting our family crammed into pictures has become a staple around our Thanksgiving holiday. The portraits are a gift we give to each other. It is a treasure to me.

Our family has grown. And we have these moments held tight. The beauty, the gift of each other is memorialized.

This year I am thankful, not so much for me as I feel bedraggled, kicked around, and disheartened on this day……

But more for my kids, whose joy and playfulness is the buoy that lifts up from the depths of grief.

In their presence, they put a smile on my face and a warmth in my heart. They are they beauty to behold. A treasure I will not overlook.

Grateful for the Quiet 36/40

I recently spent a week at a monastic Abbey nestled in the rolling hills of Kentucky’s bourbon country. I hiked trails and chanted Psalms on the daily basis, hosted by humble and oh-so-hospitable men in dresses.

Abbey of Gethsemani

It was the most beautiful way to spend the first week of Advent. The reading throughout the day focused along the theme of hope. The hope that has come and that which we await still. I toted with me a suitcase of journals – my lifetime of written words. I was sorely mistaken that the musings of decades could be re-digested in a short week’s time. I arrived beaten down from a month of loss and disappointment that I had locked up to host a large family Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving was smaller than expected with 15 cancellations which had an unacknowledged layering of grief for me. I felt all of that when I closed the door to my private bedroom at the Abbey. My foreboding morning drive south erupted in anxious tears once inside my nest for the week. I slept and cried, napped, read, ate fresh homemade bread toasted with plenty of butter, and took long walks through the farmland and into forest. I can see now the November grief was a paralyzing kind. It slowed my movements, ceased my thoughts and fatigued my whole person – mental, emotional and physical.

In a too-short conversation with a friend, she had wished offered that all the momentary struggle and heavy laden grief could be the opportunity to learn joy along the journey. This moment is about dwelling in the joy despite the circumstances. Joy sounded good.


My husband took the kids for the week. I was afforded the time to dig out of my deficit, one I hadn’t realized was consuming me. I took a few turns too many in the forested trails and ended up hiking much longer than I planned.

On the way out of the hills and trees, I felt a pop, like when your elevation changes and your ears adjust. But the pop was in my spirit, not in my head. I took pause. It was the joy. I found it. My mourning had been traded in. In its place there was joy.

To all who mourn in Israel he will give: beauty for ashes; joy instead of mourning; praise instead of heaviness. For God has planted them like strong and graceful oaks for his own glory.

Isaiah 61:3

My imagination..or lack thereof

I recently read You Are a Badass. It’s a funny, accessible book about living your best life. I found myself giggling through so many of her stories and examples. One of the themes (well, of all books in this genre) is coming up with a dream you believe so strongly, you are so fixated on that you make it come true. Rachel Hollis says that her ability to see her wild dreams in vivid color and detail is one of her super powers.

I don’t have that super power. My super power is probably loving people. Maybe it’s trying new things. Possibly stepping into the uncomfortable conversations. Like asking my friend how the criminal trial for her father sexually abusing her son was going, how grieving the miscarriage is progressing, or if the depression still remains. Those places are lonely. I might offend, but it’s worth it to me should the veil of loneliness be pierced by a true connection.

Anyway, back to me being a badass. I have a chronic problem of always evaluating what I think is achievable, if an idea is feasible. If I don’t think it is then I’ll disregard it. I play in the land of attainable execution. I don’t dwell in the fairytale land of creating something all new, a different reality where the impossible suddenly IS. I DON’T USE MY IMAGINATION!! Well, I do, but it’s usually between a wound and forgiveness when I play out rage sessions that will never materialize against my offender. Reading Jen Sincero’s book made me realize I don’t imagine all the wild, bountiful, glorious realities that could come to be.

That’s sad. I’ve lost my imagination. The good kind that dwells in unabashed possibility. I don’t even know the last time I had it. Or if I ever did. But I want to imagine. I want to dream bigger, grander, unconstrained, like all things really are possible.

I asked Lydia what her dreams were.

“Well, like to fly like a fairy?” She clarified. “Or that I get my own dog? Or that poverty would be stamped out all over the world?”

Yes Lydia, like that. If I can’t dream my own wild dreams today, I want to practice imagining Lydia’s dreams into reality. And I want to be more like her. Unfettered by the present reality.

For we live by faith, not by sight.

2 Corinthians 5:7

Turning 40 35/40


Elizabeth is the last of my children to opt into baptism- a rite of passage announcing to our community and the world at large that you have chosen in your heart Jesus is Lord and will live as such. It’s a tactile ritual symbolizing your death to your old self, the new self submerging from the life giving waters.

She understood baptism as a declaration of perfection not as a life drenched in God’s grace. My girl wasn’t ready to be perfect. She couldn’t commit to getting it all right, all the time.

The discovery of grace made her hungry for baptism and she’s following her sister’s lead and doing that in our sacred week of family service in Baja Mexico.

In a moment when I have sat and listened to the stories of fleeing refugees, women safe in no land, and think of the Middle East crisis I- feel how lavish the privilege is that my daughter can choose her faith, express it and we are safe to publicly baptize her without fear of retaliation.

In every instance someone else sacrificed for me (and mine) to have the choice. Jesus stood in our place so we can walk in grace we don’t deserve, didn’t earn. Visionary men fought, died and labored to establish a country allowing religious freedom. My daughter is seen as a person and not as property. Still now, government bodies continue to serve to protect liberties other regions of our world will never know.

How lucky am I to have had the gift of being born when I was, where I was. And my children too.

The Gift of Inadequacy 34/40

Foster parenting has not been a very graceful experience for me. It has been full of fits and starts.

It showed my very most broken parts like they were mounted as a precious gem on a jeweler’s pedestal under the brightest lights- reflecting with brilliance all my fractures to catch the attention of passers by- my failings magnified.

I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

2 Corinthians 12, The Message

There were safe places, safe people that would receive my loud and proud frustrations, my disappointment with the system, my confusion observing trauma brain, my fear of my own inadequacies. I could process, be understood, prayed for, encouraged, and on the our better days we all returned refreshed to the hard work we were surprised to have undertaken. Every passing day of struggle lead me to discover how faithful God was and how by comparison, how faithless I am. So quick to forget his love for me.

My dear friend, Kelly, gifted me a book of prayers. A liturgical practice of discovering holiness in the mundane, the painful, the seemingly godless. It leads me to quit focusing on my handicap. I discover appreciation of the gift. Despite the abuse. Despite the bad break. Despite the opposition. It is there I become stronger.

Sorrowful yet Rejoicing 33/40

Our conversations and prayers

My sweet friend since high school antics and basement parties went to be with Jesus this week. I labored in the Spirit with her since the ugly cancer diagnosis came over 7 years ago while she nursed her second daughter. She outlived all the longest timelines. She overcame and lived each day well and shared it with us. She taught me of endurance and being present and joy. She made my life more beautiful, richer. And partnering with her as I prayed for healing and more days, good days took me to places with the Lord I didn’t know needed healing, fractures I didn’t know existed.

I wondered if God could be trusted, questioned if his promises were true, and whether it even mattered to engage Him, or if my requests, my interactions with Him were worthless, my words lost in the wind, His promises just poetry. We met in the cybersphere when we could in fragmented conversations and prayers using Marco Polo. We saw each other with stretches of many, many months in between- always too little time for all the words and ideas we wanted to fit in. But I loved her like a warrior sister, who bled and struggled alongside me.

I have so much gratitude for all the days that stretched to weeks to months to years as a mercy granted to us by the Lord. I plead like a persistent widow unrelentingly asking for more. I grieve for me, for those left behind, but not for Jen. She is LIT-ER-AL-LY living her best life….the eternal one without pain, without fear, with only celebration and the completeness of meeting all that her soul longed for.

Her husband Brad’s beautiful Facebook post:

I barely know how to log on to Facebook and this is my first ever post, but when you’re passionate and in love with something – or someone – you can’t help but share. You see my wife, Jen, rocks! She is my co-adventurer; the person from whom I learn the most; my partner in the absolute joy of raising our beautiful daughters; and, a beacon of intentional friendship. We’ve been running an amazing race with open hands for almost 17 years now. Our life is and will continue to be beautiful.

She has now run ahead, though. And so we will continue to adventure and talk as a family – albeit at a distance. What is distance anyway when we know how much we love each other? Our time here is so short relative to our eternal promise. Jen, with whom have you reunited that have gone before? What are you seeing now? I can only imagine. What does your heart feel? What is it like to be in His presence? What is it like to sing and dance in complete freedom?

As you can see, we’re in shock and missing you terribly. It has been such a long road, but yet it went so quickly. I was just holding you. We were just dreaming. We were just giggling with our girls. Our life IS beautiful. We are living in deep community – especially in these sad and challenging times. Aren’t our people beautiful? There have been so many God moments in just these 2 days. Are you seeing them? Is your hand still helping to guide? If so, would you pour a heaping dose of blessing on M & G, the family and our selfless friends? Our life is beautiful. It sure also hurts, though. I love you, babe. Talk again tomorrow?

As family, cherished friends, and followers join this weekend to celebrate her. I have learned some things. God is faithful. He is worthy of having our hope. He does keep His promises. I do not get to dictate the timelines for fulfilling His promises. Love is always better than isolation. The risk of love is always worth the reward, including the pain of what first appears to be disappointment. I may never get the answers I want this side of heaven. I also learned I shut down in pain. I numb out. I want to disappear. My job in pain is to remain present, find connection, and remember to lean in to my Comforter. He does give good gifts.

Jen’s last words on her blog were, My life is beautiful. She teaches me still. I will say yes to seeing the BEAUTY. It is there. It was always there.

Jennifer Mathie Anderson’s Celebration of Life! Saturday, 11/16/19, 10:00 a.m.
West Chester Nazarene Church: 7951 Tylersville Rd, West Chester, OH 45069
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation in Jen’s name to the Karen Wellington Foundation. In lieu of a receiving line, please consider writing favorite memories on pages available at the celebration that will be used for a bound family book.
Attire: Come as you please. Light/fun colors are encouraged (Jen’s favorite was turquoise).

Turning 40 32/40

Upon recommendation, I started reading When about our circadian rhythms and how to get your best work with the time you have. One of the resulting changes was that I started embracing the author’s celebrated Nappuccino, where you combine caffeine and sleep to supercharge the remainder of your day.

The research showed benefit in a 20 minute nap, allowing 7 minutes for falling asleep. If you have an afternoon cup of coffee right before the little rest, the caffeine will kick in right at wake up. It was the best vacation experiment.

Afternoon Dunkin’ Donuts blend with my sibs in the cool Pacific breeze, the warm touch of the sun on my skin followed by a rest on a summer camp bunk bed. #winning

Now, I haven’t been successful at marrying the cup of coffee to the sleep in my working life quite yet.

But the permission to nap. Nay, the beneficial value of a nap. That’s definitely been a win for my life this summer. Embracing that value in the coming year- makes me grateful for naps.

I am also thankful for Diania, the dynamic woman that recommended I check out Dan Pink’s book. She has been a source of activating conversations, encouragement in entrepreneurship, and brimming with funny stories. Our coffee dates have been so energizing and insightful. Not just for the discovery of a nappuccino.

Turning 40 31/40

Sometimes I don’t know what I need. A component of practicing healthy boundaries is being able to say and ask for what it is that you need. But before you can do that, you must identify what you need. It turns out that is a paramount struggle for me at times of stress.

Part of my discovery process regarding my needs assessment involves notable temper tantrums. Coming from an adult, in family or friend or professional settings, this can be less than attractive.

On our family service trip my sister asked me what was wrong. She saw me disappearing into books, slipping into my bed before anyone else, short on words, and not engaging in some of my normal festivities. I was tired. I needed to lead and organize our team but I was drawing my energy on a bankrupt account.

She saw the outage before I did. She understood the need. My siblings made room for the need to be met. They sent me away, with only a husband in tow, and a recommended pit stop to visit.

There was still work to be done, but they filled a gap to afford me extra time. I went shopping for the 300 people we would be serving the next day. Darrin & I got to have a moment together which we hadn’t had in days, maybe even weeks because of our overcommitted calendars.

It was restful.

The beauty, as nature does for me, restored my soul. It reminded me of the grandeur and wonder that can be found in the world around us. I was graciously loved by creation, my husband, and my dear sisters.

He loves righteousness and justice; the world is filled with the gracious love of the Lord.

Psalm 33:5, ISV

Turning 40 30/40

I wanted to serve lunch to the refugee population. I actually thought it would be energizing. Doing the work was satisfying, meeting the people was heartwarming- we were all mothers caring for a tribe.

But I accidentally tried poisoning them. It was such a rookie mistake. I felt like such a gringa. Here comes the American to save the day! Oops. I’ll talk more about that later because it’s pretty funny- for now I sift through the weight of what I witnessed and feel at a loss for what can be done.

The issues driving our own North American refugee crisis are so complicated- an amalgam of environmental, political, economic systemic failings. The solution is not contained in a silver bullet. Although I desperately want one. But my responsibility in this moment is clear.

I was hungry and you fed me,
I was thirsty and you gave me a drink,
I was homeless and you gave me a room,
I was shivering and you gave me clothes,
I was sick and you stopped to visit,
I was in prison and you came to me.

‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me—you did it to me.


We dished up 400 meals of hot dogs and watermelon for the 300 people in a makeshift crisis center that was initially created as a single room church for Agape Mision. It was a treat as it was a meat & fresh fruit deviating from the daily beans and rice fare. We passed out our used bedding with the warning the sheets needed laundered. Pillows were a welcome gift and the 3 bins of donated clothes were quickly snatched up so that they could have garments in addition to the singular outfit they wore when they arrived to Agape.

A tent was thrown up over an empty lot acting as a covered courtyard for families to have respite from the sun because the bedrooms are too crowded to do anything other than lay in your bunk bed or your blanket on the concrete floor. Some families have been here for weeks, other just a few hours- all waiting in hopes of having their case for US asylum heard.

And they continue to wait.

Runaway- not lost but not found

I am a mother to a teenage runaway.

How should I feel? Because I don’t know.

I have day dreamt of a reunion like that of the prodigal son returning home to a parent that celebrates. I want to have that sentiment. I practice training my thoughts to dwell there. Meditating on God’s promises that He will redeem everything. He is faithful. He answers our call for help. I pray that she would be overcome by God’s lovingkindness. The Lord says THAT is what leads up to repentance, not people’s judgment or exclusion or accusation. So I can release my own judgment and shaming and accusation because it bears no value.

But when I get a text message that my girl has returned from whatever Greyhound adventure she took, I am caught with blind rage. It comes from a deep, gut level place. It surprises me. It is also joined by a heavy weight upon my chest, which takes me a moment to identify. Anxiety, fear, helplessness.

My mind races through all the actions I can take. What can be done?

After I’ve exhausted my desire to DO something, made all the phone calls, had all the conversations, I am left with a boulder of emotions. It rests upon me, so heavy I am paralyzed.

It takes the paralysis. The standing because I can’t move to realize what I didn’t know.

My rage, that pressure upon my lungs that keeps me from a full breath- it’s rejection.

My girl, whom I love, whom I cannot stop loving, whom I want to continue loving, has rejected me. I feel like she is communicating that I am so worthless to her that she can walk away from me after all I have done, all that’s been invested, all that’s been shared between us, and it was so meaningless she doesn’t even have cause to look back. There is nothing that compels her to acknowledge my existence, despite 8 miles separating us.

Fear takes hold of this shame opportunity to launch me into a frantic orbit. If she does not love us and we mean nothing to her, would she have any regard for the safety of our children? Is my home safe? How is she enduring these weeks without any financial support? What else isn’t safe? And I spiral out of control.

Before I float away from all reality, I catch myself. And remind myself what I know is true. This situation has never extended past the reach of the Father. He is not far. I am not rejected by Him. Even when she rejects, my girl does not need to be rejected.

If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, since he cannot disown himself. 

2 Timothy 2:3

And I will practice training my mind to dwell in His belonging until my thoughts and emotions come into alignment.