Why Lent is More Important Than You Think

Posted on Posted in Blog, Meditations


In the hustle and bustle of our daily life – how often are you in silence?
No, sleeping doesn’t count.
(And really, some of you don’t sleep in silence either)

Really though.  How often are you silent?
Once a day?
Twice a day?
Ten minutes?
One minute but it was by mistake because your phone was in the other room?

We have lost the ability to be alone with our thoughts.
To be silent.
I love my phone as much, maybe even more, as the next person, but not being able to be silent is a big deal.
We need silence.
And even more importantly, God needs silence.
In the Book of Kings, we are reminded that God doesn’t speak in the earthquake, or in the fire, but instead we hear God’s voice in THE SILENCE.
(1 Kings 19:12)
In the silence.
So one might interpret this text today to say that God’s voice isn’t heard on social media or in loud music, but in the silence.

Silence is important, it’s life giving, and it connects us to God.

Mother Theresa even said that through silence God speaks.  “If you face God in prayer and silence, God will speak to you.”

So what does this have to do with Lent you ask?

Lent is the church season of silence.
Advent is joyful, sparkly, giddy anticipation.
Pentecost is loud, chaotic, fiery enthusiasm.
Lent is quiet, calm reflection.
Lent is tailor-made for silence.
And we need it.

We need to take these 40 days and remove some of the noise from our world.
We need to take these 40 days and fast from the things that hold us back from hearing God’s voice.
What is that for you?
Is it social media? Maybe.
Is it anger, or bitterness or pride? Maybe.
Whatever it is for you, consider how you might remove it and leave that space empty.

God will speak in the silence.
We only need to leave a little space.


What am I doing for Lent you might wonder? (or not wonder, that’s cool too)
I’m giving myself social media time limits.
I really notice that it is in silence when I am most likely to pick up my phone.
So I’m using an app that puts time limits on my social media and I’m going to see what happens.  I’m going to try to make silence something I value, instead of something that makes me uncomfortable.
This Lent – I’m making space.
Will you?


Letter to G, from me.

Posted on Posted in Blog, Meditations

I have been sitting on this letter to you for a little while now, because I was hoping the answers would magically appear in my brain, but that’s definitely not happening so I thought if maybe I combined your brain with my brain we could come up with something wonderful.
I’m getting ahead of myself. I’m Natalia. I met you in MN, (along with about 500 other ladies, about three years ago, so I don’t expect you to remember me). I’m a pastor, wife, mother and my whole family and congregation know of you because I pretty regularly use your words in my preaching. (thanks for that by the way – you make me look goooooooood on a regular basis)
My little is 5. She is creative and wonderful and quirky and hilarious.
She wants to write.
She has started a book club for little girls.
I love her and her heart.
Each day when I get her onto the bus, I tell her to be brave and kind, but “especially kind”, and she looks at me, kisses my nose, and says “you too mama” And off she goes.
She goes off to kindergarten, with great teachers in a great school, and not everyone is kind TO her.
And man. How hard is it to be kind when someone else isn’t kind to you? It’s a thing most ADULTS don’t know how to do and here I’m asking my little love to do it.

So here’s the thing I need help with.
Because what she is learning, with great difficulty, is that being kind means being hurt. And as a mama, I love that she’s kind and I HATE that she gets hurt doing it.
So here I am. Hoping your littles (being a little less little than mine) have already come into this issue and you can share your experience with me. Because I truly, truly believe that love wins. That kindness will win the war even when it doesn’t win the battle.
But the lost battles suck.

Anyway – that’s what I’ve got.

Thanks for being you, for sharing your heart and your honesty with me.
I am truly better at being me because you are you.

Praying for you – Natalia

You are a Masterpiece. (Or, why my book club is better than Taylor’s Squad)

Posted on 1 CommentPosted in Blog, Meditations

In the past few months, Taylor Swift has basically redefined what it means to be a girlfriend.
She showed up at the VMAs with her “Girl Squad” all decked out and loving each other, holding hands on the red carpet, and hanging out at the after party.

(That’s basically exactly what I look like when I hang out with my friends…)

Taylor has made the “girl squad” a thing… something people aspire to be. Having a squad – a crew of friends that hang out and have a great time and have each others’ back – seems to be the “in” thing right now.
(Don’t believe me?  Just search the hashtag #squadgoals and you’ll see what I mean.)

The more I hear about squads and the more people talk about Taylor’s friends, the more I realize my own #squadgoal has been met by a most unexpected source… my book club.
I know what you’re thinking.  No way.
Squads have to be made up of fancy famous people.  That’s what Taylor has taught us!
And really, if ten years ago, someone had told me that a BOOK CLUB would impact my life more profoundly than any other group of people outside of my family and God, I would have called shenanigans.
But instead, that very thing has happened.
I’ve been a part of my book club for about 8 years.  And sure, for the first couple of years, it was a great way to talk about good books, drink wine, and check in with like-minded ladies.
But somewhere along the line, something changed.  We became a squad.
And even better than a squad, because instead of walking the red carpet together, we sit on couches in sweatpants and confess our struggles to each other and celebrate our joys with one another.
Yes we still read books, and yes we still talk about them monthly, but somehow we’ve become more than just a book club.

Last week, we had a book club retreat.
It wasn’t fancy.
We were at someone’s house. Not a hotel or retreat center or cabin.
We didn’t even read a book before we met.
But oh man.  It was holy.
So SO holy.
Yes, we told stories, and ate good food, and drank wine,played games, laughed hard, and stayed up too late, but in the midst of the fun, we created some holy ground.
One night, we spent four hours taking turns telling each one why they are a masterpiece.
FOUR HOURS you guys.
It was incredible.
One by one, we singled out each woman and shared why we love her, honor who she is, respect her, and why she is a masterpiece of God’s creation.
I have to say, I have never been a part of something so profound in my whole life.
As a mother, wife, and pastor, I’ve been privileged and honored to be a part of a lot of profound and holy moments.
And now, five days later, it is STILL feeding me.
Still filling my soul.
Not only the words that were spoken to me, but also the words spoken by others for everyone else too.
Holy Ground I tell you.

And each and every time I think of those four hours of amazingness, as I again feel the glow of love and a full heart, I wonder what the world might be like if more of us practiced this as a part of our daily lives.
What if we looked at our own “Squads”: our friends, our families, our communities, and spoke words of love and why we see them as a masterpiece?
And not only that – but why don’t we do this ever?
Why do we wait until at funerals and around hospital beds to speak these kinds of truths into people’s lives?
I know this was profound because it never happens, but WHY DOESN’T IT EVER HAPPEN?!
Can you imagine what our squads would be like if we just did this always?

Let me tell you – the things I thought people might say about me?  I wasn’t even close.
And the things I say about myself?  They were even further away from what I heard spoken to me.
I’m not alone in needing these kinds of words.
10 other women weeping for four hours tell me so.
The people in your life need it too.
I KNOW they do.
And you have something to say to each of them.
You can look at them and tell them they are a masterpiece.
That God’s fingerprints are all over them.
And when you look at them, you see ____________________…
And then go.
Do it.
Right now.
Don’t put it off.
Create a holy moment with the ones you love.
Your squad will never be the same.
And neither will you.

Why I’m not thankful this November

Posted on Posted in 12:30 Project, Blog

Each month, over the past year, I’ve taken on a project, like drinking more water, or getting outside every day, or limiting my online presence.
For November, the most logical project would be to spend days being thankful.  And if those who have been following this project would have to take a guess, I think most would assume that I’d go with some kind of thankfulness experiment… but they’d be wrong.

I have a confession: the daily thankful stuff during November drives me bananas.

I know. I’m a horrible person.

It’s not that I don’t have things to be thankful for – I actually have SO MUCH to be thankful for.  But I’ve started to wonder what the point is of all my blessings if I’m just saying I’m thankful and that’s it.
What does that really do?
Does it change anything? Does it change me? More importantly, does it change the world?
My gratitude month (in May) taught me that it’s not being thankful for the big things, (like family, friends, a job, health, etc) that bring gratitude and joy. No, surprisingly, it’s the little things – tiny, otherwise unnoticed moments in the day – that change our perspective and us.
So why spend a month being thankful for those big things when I’m not really sure it does anything?

After some thought – I’ve decided to make this month’s project “service.”
Simply put – I’m going to do daily acts of service for the month of November.
They don’t have to be big all-day events, but small moments where I intentionally give back.
Give back out of the blessings I have been given.
Give back out of gratitude for the people that I love and who love me.

Being thankful is a start, but we can go further.
This month, I challenge you to be more than thankful.
I challenge you take the things you are thankful for, and give out of those things.
Thankful for your kid? What can you do to serve out of that place?
Thankful for your amazing parents? What can you do for them, or people who don’t have amazing parents?

It’s not quick and easy like posting what you are thankful for today to facebook.
This practice means taking time and being thoughtful and intentional around your blessings.
But we can do it.
And I think we’ll be better off for trying.

Who’s with me?

Project 12:30 November

Posted on Posted in 12:30 Project, Blog

For my monthly “project” in November, most would assume that I’d go with thankfulness… but I have a confession: the daily thankful stuff during November drives me bananas.
I know. I’m a horrible person.
It’s not that I don’t have things to be thankful for – I actually have SO MUCH to be thankful for.  But I’ve started to wonder what the point is of all my blessings if I’m just being thankful and that’s it.
What does that really do?
My gratitude month in May reminded me that it’s not actually being thankful for the big things, (like family, friends, a job, health, etc) that bring gratitude and joy.  It’s the little things – tiny, otherwise unnoticed moments in the day – that change our perspective and us.

So I’ve made this month’s project “service.”
I’m going to do daily acts of service for the month of November.
They don’t have to be big all-day events, but small moments where I intentionally give back.
Give back out of the blessings I have been given.
Give back out of gratitude for the people that I love and who love me.

This month, I challenge you to be more than thankful.
I challenge you take the things you are thankful for, and give out of those things.
It’s not quick and easy like posting to facebook.
It means taking time and being thoughtful and intentional around your blessings.
But we can do it.

Who’s with me?

Project 12:30 October wrap up

Posted on Posted in 12:30 Project, Blog

So October has come and gone.
I cannot believe how quickly it went!
I had good and bad days with my online presence fast.  If nothing else, I realized how much I was attached to my phone and checking my online communities.
But, I have really learned to let go this last month.
I’ve kept my phone away from family time, from the dinner table, and my bedroom.
It’s not easy, but it was a start, and I think this month’s habit is one I’m going to keep.

12:30 Project – October: offline presence month.

Posted on Posted in 12:30 Project, Blog

So a long time ago, when I came up with this plan for a monthly focus each month for a year, I thought I’d go meatless for October.  And while I may still move that to a different month, I’ve decided to reduce my intake of something a lot more addictive and delicious, and detrimental: the interwebs.

Now, I’m not saying the online world is a bad place, but I saw these ads recently and they looked sadly familiar:
new-finalFA0504 new-finalFA0504

I wish they weren’t representative of me, but I kind of think they are.

So I’m going to set some stricter boundaries on my phone/internet/social media use.
I want to be present for the people around me. Really, actually present.
And while it doesn’t sound like that should be hard, I think it is.

SO here are my rules:
1. No phone at mealtime. Ever.  It can wait. No matter what it is. It can wait.
2. No checking phone while I’m in bed.  Not right away when I wake up, not when I’m going to sleep.
3. If I’m going somewhere with my little or my hubby, the phone either stays at home, or in my pocket (unless I’m taking a picture, or it’s an emergency).
4. If I’m talking to someone, my full attention on the conversation, unless they ask me to look something up or put something in a calendar.  If they come into my office, I close all windows and stop what I’m doing.

All of these focus on presence.  And I think, as much as it would be interesting to go meatless for awhile, I think the impact of my presence will be greater than my not eating meat.

I actually think #2 is going to be the hardest.  I have a tendency to wake up and grab my phone first thing, to check all the various social media outlets and emails, to see who texted after 9 (I have a do not disturb function that turns on at 9pm and off at 8am).  I get sucked into the black hole of posts and interesting emails and suddenly my morning becomes rushed instead of relaxing.

So there it is.  October is offline presence month.
Anyone want to try it with me?

James Chapters 4 and 5

Posted on Posted in Blog, Book of James

Yes, I promise I completed my in depth month into James, but I didn’t post on it for the last couple of weeks.  So, better late than never, here are my posts on James 4 and 5.

James chapter 4 is like an 80s CCM lyric explosion.  “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” “Come near to God and God will come near to you.” “Humble yourselves before the Lord.”
I almost cannot read it without breaking into song.

But, at it’s bottom line, James 4 is the same as the two that have come before – it’s about acting rightly.  Doing good, seeking God.
James 4 begins with words and warnings on fighting with others – and reminds us that our poor behavior towards others begins within ourselves.  This is not an easy thing to wrap our minds around, since we like to blame others and see the worst in those around us.
The chapter comes to a head at verse 7 – reminding us to submit to God.  Again, I think we recoil at this imagery, because we’ve been raised in a culture where being on top is best, being powerful is important and being dominant in all things is seen as a strength.  James challenges this ideal of dominance, and calls us to put God where God belongs and us where we belong. And if it weren’t clear enough, James concludes his 4th chapter with a reminder that in the grand scheme of things, we aren’t actually that big of a deal.  “what is your life? You are mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (14)
Wow.  Way to bring down the room, James.
But really – as harsh as it seems – it’s an important reminder of who is in charge (HINT: it’s not you or me).  I think we need the harshness, the bluntness of James here.  It’s not comfortable, but it’s truth.

Continuing on into chapter 5, James has harsh words for the wealthy that make money on the backs of others.  We should listen to these words as well…for we play roles in this same system that James is talking about.  It’s important for us to know where our food and clothing come from, and if the people helping to make them are being fairly compensated. Why? Because their lives matter to God and should matter to us.
James writes to just those people who are being mistreated as well, and reminds them that God is coming to be with them, to rescue them, to show them love and compassion.
James concludes his whole letter with a reminder that no matter what the circumstance, we should pray. “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (16)

So there is James.
A book of action. And the kind of action that I want to try to actually do. Not just read and say that sounds great and then go back to doing what I always do.  No – James calls us to change, to be aware and open to the actions of God at work in the world and then not to just stand there watching but to GO AND JOIN IN with what God is doing in the world.
I’m in.
Are you?

James Chapter 3 Reflections

Posted on Posted in Blog, Book of James

Oh man – James is on a roll now!
He leaves chapter two “faith without works is dead” and continues on by talking about the power of speech.
“The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” (3:6)

James uses all sorts of images to remind us of the power of our words to do good or evil in the world:
Bits in the mouths of horses to direct the entire animal
Small rudder can steer a large boat
Forest fires start with only a spark

James is not shying away from making sure we understand how important it is to pay attention to what we say.
This fits so well with what James is saying about faith and works: we can SAY we believe, but unless we act it out in the world, it means nothing.
Likewise, we can’t say we love God and then speak poorly about others.
It’s just not possible.
“Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?” (3:11)
James doesn’t leave room for misinterpretation.
Your words say as much about your faith as your actions.
So speak wisely, speak kindly, and speak with love.

James ends this 3rd chapter with a lovely reminder of how to tell if things are from heaven or not… it’s a recipe of sorts:
“wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.” (3:17)

Want to know if what you’re saying or hearing is from heaven? Put your words or the words of others to the test – are they first pure? Peace-loving? Considerate? Full of mercy and good fruit? Are they then impartial and sincere?
I think we would take a lot less words to heart, we’d believe a lot less of what we hear, and we’d probably speak a lot less if we held speech to this standard.

Try it this week.  And let me know what happens.

Why You Should Have (or begin) a Yoga Practice

Posted on Posted in Blog, Yoga

For my entire life I’ve struggled with exercise.
Going to the gym, swimming, running, ultimate frisbee, even completing a half marathon.
I did it all.
But I never loved it.
I exercised to be healthy, or to eat ice cream, but never because I couldn’t NOT exercise.

So it comes as quiet a shock to me that lately, I’ve been getting up before the sun, at 5:30am, to continue my daily yoga practice.
And it’s amazing.
Look at that.  Sheesh.
I never thought I’d appreciate the slow lighting of the sky but man, it’s amazing.

Almost exactly two years ago, I began a daily practice.
I can honestly say I have never been in better shape and never have I felt better, and I know it is all a result of my daily practice.
It hasn’t been easy, and obviously I’ve missed some days due to illness or travel, but in these two years I have learned a few things.  So here are the reasons why you too should have (or start!) a yoga practice.

1.  It’s not just a fad
I know, I know.  Yoga pants are everywhere.  And it really can SEEM like everyone            is doing yoga lately.  But yoga has been a physical and spiritual practice for                        centuries.  It’s not new, and for those who legitimately practice, it’s not going                      anywhere.  Know that it’s been around this long for a reason, and it’s not the                      clothes (though they are a bonus).

2. It’s so much more than exercise.
Yes, yoga will increase your strength, flexibility and balance.  I’ve literally never                    been as strong as I am now, even more than the times in my life I weight trained at            the gym. I can bend and twist my body and do poses I always assumed were                      beyond my reach.  Yes, yoga is amazing exercise. But yoga isn’t just about that                  stuff.  It’s also about awareness.  This one thing has changed me more than the                  strength and flexibility and balance that yoga brings.  Those other things are                        awesome don’t get me wrong – but learning to listen to my body, to become aware              of how I feel and why I feel that way has been astounding.  I eat better, not                          because I HAVE TO or because I’m on some crazy new diet, but because I know                what things make me feel good and what things don’t when I eat them.  I am aware            of how I feel before I get on the mat and how I feel afterwards.  It is this awareness            that keeps me coming back to my mat. Morning after morning.  Day after day.                   Yoga just makes me feel good.  Really good.  Why wouldn’t I want that all the time?

3. Breath
In yoga we learn that if you can control your breath, you can control anything.  You            can do anything with breath.  I love this.  Not only is it empowering but the breathing          steadily with movement of yoga has all sorts of positive impacts on your health –                physical and mental.  Stress goes down, happiness goes up.  I always feel so                    awesome after a long or especially focused practice.  And that feeling leaves the                mat when I do.  My connection to the breath and feeling like I can do anything as                long as I keep breathing – that stays with me into all the areas of my life.
On top of that, for me, breath is equated with spirit.  The Greek word we use to talk            about the Holy Spirit, “pneuma”, literally means breath.  Yoga is holy for me because          it physically connects me to the Spirit in a way I don’t often experience elsewhere.

So that’s it.
Those are (a few of) my reasons why I think yoga is great.  And why I think more people should do it.
I mean really – What if everyone were a little stronger, a little more flexible, and a little more peaceful as they went throughout their day?
What if everyone felt good more often?
What if people had a daily reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit?
Maybe we’d feel more like this…
Want to try and don’t know how?
Start here.  She’s my fave.
Not annoying. Not complicated or fancy.
Try her “Yoga for Complete Beginners”, “30 Days of Yoga” (if you want to jump into daily for a month), or go through any of her Foundations of Yoga vids to get details on poses.
You can do it.