A Letter

1_25_16Deep in history, a man penned a letter to people he’d probably never meet. His vision was far beyond the recipients, as he hoped his words would motivate them to engage the people of Italy and Spain.

At this stage in his life, he must not have had control issues. Oh, to trust a group of people you don’t know with such an important task…

To God’s beloved in Rome:
…We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything
to work toward something good and beautiful
when we love Him
and accept His invitation to live according to His plan…

Love,
Paul*

It’s a dance, right? It takes courage to integrate in society and yet live counter-culturally. It takes wisdom to pursue community without being influenced by a value system ruled by what’s temporary. And even among faith circles, we sometimes have to go against the grain by choosing a gospel-centered life instead of the “safety” of religion. Paul’s letter was a bit of a roadmap on how to swim upstream.

And swimming upstream leaves us so weary.

He wrote much, much more. But this. THIS. This short excerpt of Paul’s letter touched on themes we can’t ignore but still try to resist:

    • believing God is who He says He is
    • believing He is capable of orchestrating my life’s complexities
    • believing He restores and repurposes and creates beauty
    • believing His plan is worth following… is worth surrendering

Or, maybe you’ve heard it this way:
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. (Romans 8:28). 

I so wanted it to be all about my circumstances.

For years I read Paul’s words and interpreted them as a promise that God would work everything out. Or I’d eventually have my way. Or things would at least make sense some day.

You, too?

But his heart-wrenching statements in the whole letter – before and after this tiny excerpt — whisper to wake up deaf ears. He pries open blind eyes.

They call to every mortal, resonating with all who’ve felt the tension — the tension between the sin fostering our brokenness and an honest desire to be different. Sin patterns and surrender.

Might Paul’s promises really be about changing our HEARTS rather than our circumstances? 

You’re not a slave to fear. (v15)
Our current suffering foreshadows a greater glory. (v18)
Someday we’ll transcend from bondage to freedom. (v21)
We ache as we wait in hope. (v22-23)
We’re invited to love God back and live according to His plan. (v28)
He chose us to look like His Son. (v29)
His love is so intense it can’t be conquered by suffering or deception.  Never ever. (v35)

Maybe believing He’ll “work for the good of those who love Him” means fear won’t be my master anymore. I wish I was there today.

Maybe I’ll hold my suffering in the palm of an eternal perspective.

And maybe my hope will be so great that I ache inside… my hope to be like my Redeemer… my hope for intense intimacy with my Maker.

“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” It’s really not about our circumstances. No, it’s truly all about our hearts.

He’s refining you, molding you, repurposing your heart to receive His deepest affections… To receive His love letter that bleeds with grace.

photo source | daria nepriakhina

*Romans 8:28 (the voice)

Table Talk: A Little Parenting Advice

IMG_1593

We saw A. R. Gurney’s The Dining Room with our kids last weekend. In short, the off-broadway play speaks to the dying culture of the upper-middle class WASP in the United States.

Numerous scenes unfold around the same dining room table, portraying different families who owned the house throughout the years. Their issues overlap and intertwine while touching on realities many wish were not true even today — controlling mothers, manipulation, comparison and choices made to keep up with others, strained conversations in which family members don’t feel safe, infidelity.

Sadly, the dining room is a place of irony. Boasting of potential dialogue and possible connection, it sometimes serves as just a hope for too many families to mention.

What culture have you created around your table?

In one scene, a woman and a craftsman are under the table, looking at how it’s constructed, surmising exactly what needs to be repaired.

Dare we look and examine, really examine, what needs to be repaired around our table?

What would my kids say if I asked them?

That scene uncovered a memory for me. It uncovered a question, too. My godfather, a hobby carpenter, built me a hope chest when I was a teen. If you open the lid to the tangible dreams, you’ll find Proverbs 3:5-6 carved into the corner:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.

Not bad advice for a girl on the edge of adulthood.

But the table? I wonder… did he etch something under there, too?!


As a wedding gift, “Uncle” Al promised to craft us whatever I desired. It was an easy decision. I ripped a page from a Pottery Barn catalogue and mailed it to his Ohio home.

Post-honeymoon, we drove from the east coast to Indiana, stopping to pick up our treasure. We marveled at the work of my godfather’s hands. Only in my dreams could I have owned a Pottery Barn table, but he made reality better with love and intention carved and sanded and polished throughout.


So did he? Did he etch something under the table, too? Had I missed it for the past twenty years?!

Late last Friday night, we arrived home from the play, and I crawled right under that table.

Sure enough… My goodness… How had I missed this?

IMG_1582

Phil 4, Uncle Alan Gratz, July 13 1996

Philippians 4? All 23 verses?! He must have known a lifetime of marriage and family-ness would require an entire chapter of truth. Would demand heaps of direction. I understand that now.

I grabbed my Bible, wondering what wisdom I should have been heeding all these years. But it was perfect timing. Our timeless God gave Uncle Al a message for me twenty years ago, knowing I’d need it at this season of life… at this stage of parenting.

5 Keep your gentle nature so that all people will know what it looks like to walk in His footsteps. The Lord is ever present with us. Don’t be anxious about things; instead, pray. Pray about everything. He longs to hear your requests, so talk to God about your needs and be thankful for what has come. And know that the peace of God (a peace that is beyond any and all of our human understanding) will stand watch over your hearts and minds in Jesus, the Anointed One.

Finally, brothers and sisters, fill your minds with beauty and truth. Meditate on whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is good, whatever is virtuous and praiseworthy. Keep to the script: whatever you learned and received and heard and saw in me—do it—and the God of peace will walk with you. Philippians 4:5-9


To every mom and dad out there —

5 Clothe yourself with gentleness, for you’re reflecting the Maker to your children… even on weekday mornings before school.

Get real about your anxiety regarding your children’s path. Talk about it and surrender your fear to your Rescuer. Admit you need to be rescued and accept that your kids will need to be rescued, too. 

Don’t resent how God has created them. Don’t apologize for this to others, either. Be grateful your sons and daughters are already fulfilling God’s purposes for their lives (even though they might not know it yet).

It’s hard to believe, but you can actually experience peace in your thought-life and in your emotions. Jesus Himself is standing guard over your minds and hearts.

Pursue beauty and truth. Walk away from the comparison game and don’t lean into lies. Choose to fill your mind (and eyes and ears) with what is right and true and good… even when posts that breed insecurity pop up in your social media feed.

Live your story — not someone else’s.


Maybe you’re not a parent. Maybe your internal drama doesn’t happen around the dining room table but in trendy eateries with friends. Whether you’ve chosen your community, or it was chosen for you, there’s more than enough grace.

There’s grace for yourself, too.

 

The Orphan Train: Our Story

trainwindow

I married a Kansas boy back in 1996. “The 1900’s” my daughter likes to call it. 🙂 I knew he was Italian and German in ethnicity, but he was oh, so very American in culture. Through and through. People were intrigued a boy from the heartland and a girl from New Jersey found each other.

But we did.

As a girl, I lived between Philadelphia and the shore until we moved north into New York City’s shadow. As I mentioned, I knew my husband’s paternal ancestors were from Italy, but I never gave much thought as to how they landed in Kansas. I guess I assumed they traveled west in search for land like all determined pioneers – by their own choosing, their own power, their own sheer will.

But they didn’t.


Pause and identify a real, live six year-old in your life right now. Picture her face. Say his name.


He was just six years-old and the son of Italian immigrants.

His parents had made New York City their home, for I imagine they didn’t have the means to continue their journey beyond the City That Never Sleeps. Oh, the irony of that nickname, for it reflected the tension within his parents’ hearts. I’m talking about the fear that keeps you up at night and doesn’t let you rest.

Jim Perona’s father died shortly after he was born. And his mother was left a widow raising six children. An immigrant in poverty. Grieving. Desperate. Confused that this new world hadn’t delivered like she had hoped.

I ache as I write this, for little Jim, my husband’s grandfather, never knew his dad. Never knew the man with hope. Never knew the man who took great risks to start a new life. Never knew the man that walked right onto the path of the unknown.

Jim’s path looked very much like his dad’s, but it wasn’t his own choosing.

You see, at the age of six, his mama hugged him tight and put him on the Orphan Train, never to see him again. I’m not sure how I got through 13 years of school and four years of college and never knew about this era in U.S. history. But, I kid you not, the first time I heard of the Orphan Train was while watching Samantha, an American Girl movie, with my own daughter when she was six. She was so tiny and fragile and needed her parents so very much at that age…

But it’s true. Over 100,000 children sleeping on the streets of New York were placed on the Orphan Train from the 1850’s and the 1920’s. And some parents in poverty who couldn’t possibly feed their children led their tiny sons and daughters to that boarding platform, too. The goal was to rip these kids out of hopelessness and place them into new lives in rural America.

But still… Jim was only six.

streetorphans

train1

train2

Have you ever judged people in poverty for their decisions? Have you ever measured someone’s choices by looking only through your lens of comfort? Yeah, me too.

Jim’s story ended well, for after staying at an orphanage in Atchison, Kansas, he went to live with a family in southwestern Kansas. It was common back then for orphans to be indentured on contract to work for families. But these people eventually became Jim’s real family and the rest, I guess is history… a history we’ll never really fully know.


And here we are, resonating with parts of Jim’s story…

Some of you don’t feel a day wiser than six, and you’re begging God for wisdom to navigate this mess.

If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking. James 1:5

Some of you have been ripped from your norm and placed into a new story whirling with risk and fear and mystery.

When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
    they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
    you will not be burned. Isaiah 43:2 niv

Some of you feel rejected. Or forgotten. Or not known.

The Lord your God is with you,
    the Mighty Warrior who saves.
He will take great delight in you;
    in his love he will no longer rebuke you,
    but will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:17 niv

Or maybe you’re living like an indentured servant — striving, striving, striving — trying to earn your way into the family.

Are you so foolish? Do you think you can perfect something God’s Spirit started with any human effort? …Now it is absolutely clear that no one is made right with God through the law. Galatians 3:3, 11

(And why — when we need wisdom, when we’re forced into something we didn’t choose, when we feel rejected and betrayed — why do we feel shame? But that’s another post for another day…)

I titled this post “The Orphan Train: Our Story”. And by “our” I meant the Peronas — my husband and my children, and therefore me, for I’m somehow grafted into it all.

But really, it’s all of our story, yes? For we all need wisdom, and we’re all living stories we didn’t write, and we’ve all felt unknown, and we’re all tempted to live motivated by others’ approval and acceptance.

But I promise you, we are not alone in the deep, deep water that taunts of drowning. We are not consumed in the fire.

I see your stories. And I see your wounds. But you are absolutely not identified by your brokenness, for we are His sons and daughters.

He endured the breaking that made us whole.
    The injuries he suffered became our healing. Isaiah 53:5

Pierced for us. Crushed for us. And by those very wounds, His wounds, we are healed.

Known. Chosen. Welcomed in as adopted children.

photo source | Wilson Lau

Find more details about the Orphan Train online.

Repurposed For What?

sanfran

“It becomes crucial that we become a generation of storytellers who are both recapturing the glory and joy of the Sacred Romance even as we tell each other our particular stories, so that we can help each other, through God’s Spirit, see His plan of redemption at work in us.” Brent Curtis 1947-1998

It was 5 1/2 years ago. My, how time flies. I started this blog, originally called Heart of a Coach’s Wife, in the summer of 2010 when our lives looked very different. That summer was a turning point for me. I, for the first time in several years, finally began to feel settled in our purpose and in our community.

After a rather raw worship experience led by a gifted musician at a conference, God graced me with the ability to surrender back in 2010. He gave me the courage to not just surrender but embrace what He had led us to years ago. Blogging became a way to pour into others whose spouses were also coaching.

Through a series of circumstances, God challenged my husband to walk a different path… a path away from coaching high school football. Months of conversation and prayer and counsel resulted in releasing the only life we’d known in our fifteen years of marriage. With the release came hope… and grief… and peace… and struggle. Change, of course, brings growth, and we grew a lot. But it was hard, and I still cringe as I write these words. We didn’t just change our circumstance — we sort of changed our identity.

God repurposed our lives. Repurposed our hearts. And after just one year, Heart of a Coach’s Wife became Repurposed Heart and eventually landed on the name Repurposed. There was even an 18-month rest from blogging from 2012-2014 because it started to feel like an idol. Regardless, this has been a place, since its inception, where I wrestle aloud with authentically embracing the gospel.

My audience expanded to include men and women who were in no way involved in coaching careers but were learning to live reflective lives, to surrender, and to intentionally make every day experiences more beautiful. I still believe any situation can be turned into a worship experience. Yes, every experience can be given back to our Maker, our Redeemer.

Centuries ago God promised His people: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekial 36:25-26 esv

My prayer back in 2011 was that my heart — and my readers’ hearts — would be repurposed. I yearned we’d all be changed to embrace every bit of what He planned for us. I begged Him to change our hearts to look more like His.

But here we are in 2016. After re-reading David Platt’s Radical over Christmas break, I’m struck by God’s design for us to live in community, focus on others, and in turn, be changed and molded ourselves. So I’ll ask again: Repurposed for what? Five years later, might Repurposed be a place where you’re not only challenged to live reflectively and surrender, but to ultimately take your stories to others?

Christ intimately poured into 12 men. Who are your 12? Or your 6? Or your 3?

“To whom can you deliberately, intentionally, and sacrificially show the life of Christ in this way? This is foundational in making disciples, and we will multiply the gospel only when we allow others to get close enough to us to see the life of Christ in action.” David Platt

See, the purpose of this blog is now more than just leading you toward reflection. My hope is that your response to your own story will involve repurposing and restoring others’ lives. God has a way of speaking His truth to each heart who hears it — His Spirit comforts and convicts with the very messages each of us need to hear on a given day. What is He saying to you? Where does He want you to take His truth?

Are you ready to step out from what’s comfortable? Together, let’s reflect and then join God in redeeming what’s broken in the lives around us.

I’m excited for what the year holds for us.  Whether you’re new here or have been a reader since 2010, welcome. I’m so glad you’re a part of Repurposed, for I believe our Maker has intentionally crossed our paths for such a time as this. We all have a lot to learn from each other, and I’m all ears.

photo source | Kimson Doan