But Who Will Prepare the Sandwiches?!?!

Expectations are funny things. If your expectations of someone or something are too high, you are likely to be let down. If you set your expectations too low you may never hold anyone around you accountable to greater things.

So it’s a tightrope walk.

My tendency is to set my expectations way too high. Way. Too. High. I know better. I’ve learned the danger in this the hard way.  My therapist has declared it to be the downfall of many of my relationships and goals in life. And yet I continue to toss expectations up to the rafters and hope for the best.

I especially do this with holidays. And birthdays. And special occasions. I want everything to be magical and sparkly and joyous and memorable; oh, do I ever want to make the memories! I make lists and plans and plot and organize and pile things up and stress myself to the max. Which frankly, is the exact opposite of my entire belief system. Or, at least what I claim to be my belief system. I want to be chill. I want things to be simplified. I want the soft days with the relaxed people. This truly is my heart song. But what I end up with is, most of the time, whack-a-do.

This year I was able to keep my Easter plans relaxed. Since most of the members of our life group are either paid church workers or highly committed volunteers, we all worked together to put a very easy meal on the table. Or the island. We tend to do buffet style anymore. See? Chill. One person brought a ham, one brought veggies and a roast, one brought two lamb cakes…because why just one? We are chill; not lazy. It all worked out beautifully and we drank wine and laughed and danced. The dancing came later in the day and might have mostly been me but whatever.

My expectations of this day were exactly what I knew it would be and exactly what it turned out to be – a great day with friends.

However, my girl is being confirmed this coming Sunday and my body is aching today with the expectations. I have a thousand plans in my head, I’ve already put too much on the schedule, I have shopping and cooking, and phone calls and a bounce house….scratch that. The bounce house would be too much. Look at me dialing back as I type. I even scheduled a visit with my therapist for the middle of all the fun because my expectation is that I will need someone to reel me in.

I want it all to be wonderful and magical and holy and beautiful and memorable for her and for me and for everyone involved. If I’m honest, I want people to say, “Look how effortlessly Tam can throw together a weekend of wonderful!” When in reality, it’s not thrown together at all but orchestrated to the smallest detail.

I know, I know. I need to stop and take a breath. That’s what I would tell you if you were rambling this crazy to me. I would say, “Friend, sit down and shut your eyes and feel your breath. Inhale peace from the Holy Spirit and exhale all your anxiety.” And then I’d pour you a drink. Just kidding. Sort of.

This is where the Mary and Martha of my soul go into hand to hand combat. The Mary knows that Shelby’s confirmation is about professing her faith in Jesus and all I need to do is praise God for the work he has done in her heart. The Martha says, “But where will the sandwiches come from if you don’t prepare them?!?!?!”

The Mary tells me to breathe and pray and rest, knowing that Shelby is loved by all the people, but most importantly by her Lord, and the sandwiches and tea and cakes don’t really matter. The Martha says, “But the people will be hungry and the bread needs to be fresh!!!!”

The Mary says to chillax and not worry about impending forecasts for rain. Having people together to celebrate God’s goodness will happen rain or shine. Martha is screaming, “You should plan some indoor activities just in case!!!”

Martha uses a lot of exclamation points.

I wonder about the expectations of the first Easter morning; the one before anyone knew it was Easter. When the women went to the tomb, fully expecting to dress Jesus’ body for burial, they had their expectations set for mourning. They knew the process, they had the supplies, and they all had assigned jobs. The shock of the empty tomb, if you notice in the bible, was not immediate joy. Even though they’d heard the promises and knew what Jesus had said would happen, that reality didn’t make sense to them because it’s not where their expectations lived. There was confusion, maybe a little bit of anger, and sadness.

Where is the body?!?!?!? It’s supposed to be here!!!!

I wonder if when the men came to check things out and then ran away, did the women yell, “Fine! Y’all go ahead and run home! We will stay here and solve this mystery! Because we are women and we handle all the things!!!”

Again, I feel like there were lots of exclamation points.

Meeting Jesus face to face is what it took for the ladies to settle into the truth of the moment. Hearing his voice is what turned the expectations from funeral to celebration. The plans they had made had to be changed in an instant. Did they drop the oils and herbs and dance with joy? I like to think so.

So maybe all I need is to sit down and listen for his voice. If I could put my expectations aside and simply ask him to show me how he’s moving through the weekend, I might be able to drop my anxieties, my plans of what should be, and dance in the joy of his presence.




Anger at the Wal-Mart



I’m not exactly sure when it happened. I’d like to point a finger somewhere or at someone, because blaming would make me feel better. Blaming would allow me to tell myself that it’s not a part of me or that I don’t have a part in it. Something has changed in America though and it’s ugly. We’ve become a nation of mad, angry, self-righteous people. We yell. We scream. We type in all caps. We wave our arms and hands at drivers and we rage out on our “friends” on social media. I know some would like to blame this election season but y’all, this has been brewing for a while. We would not be allowing this election year to be so nasty if the subculture of rage hadn’t already crawled into our being.

I went to Wal-Mart today. I know. Why would I chose to do such a thing on a school holiday? I’ll tell you why. Toilet bowl cleaner. I’ve got six toilets in this house and they all get used. Mama needs her some deals when it comes to cleaning supplies. Anyway, the kids and I managed to make it through the store fairly quickly, stocking our cart with cleaners and dusters and an Iron Man t-shirt because, well, Iron Man. We got to the check out and shockingly enough, there were only three lanes open. I know this surprises you because Wal-Mart and Target always have enough checkers for the shoppers in the store. (Make sure your computer reads the sarcasm font there.)

There was an older couple in line ahead of us. My friend Denise would say, “Old like me?” and I would say, “No. Old like for real.” They were old. Gray. Shriveled. And super cute. The woman had placed her purse on the conveyor belt, I’m assuming to mark the stopping point of items for the person in front of her and the starting point of her own things. I don’t know where the little belt marker was but it wasn’t there. So she used her purse. The checker, scanning items mindlessly and fast, scanned the last item of the person ahead and grabbed the woman’s purse and attempted to scan it.

The old lady ahead of me grabbed her purse back and said, “Oh, no. That’s mine.”

To which, I kid you not, the checker said, “No. It’s hers. If you want a purse you’ll need to go get one.”


My daughter, watching the  whole thing unfold, looked at me as if to say,”What just happened?”

And then…

The old lady ahead of me starts yelling, “That’s my purse! It’s got my stuff inside! Give it back!”

And the checker says, (I swear I can’t make this up),”Prove it!”

So the woman opens her purse and shows that it is truly, in fact, her purse.

And her old man husband never flinched.

When we got to the truck my son asked what the people were fighting about and I just sighed. I told him I think some people have so much anger in their hearts that they don’t know what to do but let it spill out on other people.

I think there’s more of us with that issue than we’d like to acknowledge.

Once upon a time, when my kids were really little, they were having some anger issues with each other. There was lots of fighting, lots of name calling. and dear Jesus, so much tattling. I decided one day to sit them down and make a list of all the things that are worthy of our anger; things where if we were to witness them happening, we should yell or scream or throw a fit.

Our list included things like:

  • Kicking puppies
  • Picking other peoples boogers
  • Stealing toys or houses
  • Cutting someone else’s  artwork out

You know, things that make little kids mad. I can’t help but think that maybe it’s time for America to sit down and make a list. Be real about it. Make a list of the injustices that honestly and truly mean something. And then, instead of throwing a fit, say a prayer and ask God how He would have us react. I suspect that He will rarely answer with, “Go to your Facebook page and type in all caps with lots of exclamation points.” I’m pretty sure He won’t say,”Yell out your window in car line at the school and shake your fist at the other moms.”

He might. I don’t claim to know the mind and heart of God to the fullest.

I feel like He will suggest things like, “Give more hugs” and “Share more food” and “Turn the other cheek” because God tends to lean more towards the loving side and less towards the “let’s have a scream out in the check out lane at Wal-Mart” type.

A few years ago I had to come face to face with my own anger issues. I’m not claiming to have them all under control but I have taken HUGE strides towards being a gentler person. I rarely yell anymore. I work hard at letting the small things go; the battles that aren’t worth fighting. I don’t hold on to things that are completely out of my control…okay, I’m still working on some big things but the little things that are out of my control – easy. The big questions I ask myself daily, when deciding to engage rage or not are:

  1. Is the energy I spend on this anger issue worth it? If I’m going to be short on energy for my family later today because I spent energy on this angry thing, will I look back and approve?
  2. Is my anger going to make a difference in the situation? If I say something, yell something, type something in all caps, will I make a difference for the better in the world? Will my anger bring safety or bring justice?

If I can answer “yes” to those questions then I can let the rage fly. But even with that, I’m learning to temper my rage in a way that makes it more receivable. Can my anger be displayed calmly and rationally? Because it’s more palatable that way and generally brings change faster.

Here’s what I know for sure. Kindness almost always wins. Showing love, even when it’s not earned and especially when it’s not deserved, is always the best way. These things have nothing to do with being a door mat and everything to do with being a better person. Gentleness is better received than rage and a soft word is taken in and heard far more often than a snarky response.

So maybe this evening we all turn off the news and shut down the social media and take a walk. Maybe we wave at our neighbors – even the ones with the political signs in their yards for the candidate we despise. Perhaps we bake a loaf of bread and share it with a friend or pour a glass of hearty red wine for our spouse. Let’s all take a breath. Let’s inhale peace and exhale the nasty. And let’s all agree that Wal-Mart needs more open lanes.




Extravagance from a Barn

“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” – C.S. Lewis

I became an orphan after my mom’s suicide. There were lots of reasons for this and truthfully, most could never be fully explained. It just happened and I was alone. The peace I have come to, however, after  almost 19 years, is that pointing fingers gets you nowhere. Every soul grieves in it’s own way and even within family we don’t always agree on what the way should be. People need space to process, to understand, to breathe. Each heart touched by tragedy has it’s own cracks, it’s own scars. We all experience the story from a different seat and judging the point of view you can’t see from your angle is madness. It’s a waste of time. It serves no greater good.

This weekend I experienced nothing short of a miracle. I prayed a simple prayer for over 18 years.

“God, show me where I came from.”

My previous knowledge of my family had come from a child’s view; the stories I knew by heart heard through the ears of a small girl. I wanted to look into eyes that were my eyes. I wanted to touch skin that was my skin. My heart learned to identify itself with a heavenly father. I made peace with a wrestling that tied me to an eternal home and an angelic clan. Yet even still, I wanted flesh and bones to cling to.

“God, show me where I came from.”

This yearning is the fertile soil that a passion for family ministry grew from. It’s the place I tilled and planted and cared for my  husband and my own children. I wanted, no needed, people to call my own.

My husband’s family scooped me up and adopted me as one of their clan. They call me daughter, granddaughter, sister, cousin, niece. I love them every minute of every day for the gracious ways they have loved me. They have loved me well. Yet I still prayed.

“God, show me where I came from.”

I wanted the connection again. I wanted to walk in a yard where generations had gone before me. I wanted to sit under a blanket stitched with loving hands that looked like mine. I wanted the recipes. I wanted to laugh at the inside jokes. I wanted the knowing glances and the finished sentences.

And then the call came.

A weekend gathering. A meal. A barn. My people. They called me and invited me home.


We ate and we laughed and I sat with Grand Daddy, who at 97 is sharper than many people half his age. He patted my hand and said he was so sorry for wasted years, time lost, decisions made in anger. Aren’t we all? My  kids snuggled in hay with other great-grandchildren and surrounded him. All of them were only slightly aware of the history, the stories, the joy and the pain. They smiled, not all-together sure how the DNA connected them, how their eyes matched.


His children sat with him, smiling, missing two. One because of work, one because of death. They, the carriers of the stories, smiling through pain and gladness, survivors of their own right, moving forward; letting go.


“God, show me where I came from.”

God answered. And as  he is accustomed to doing, he answered in the biggest and grandest of ways. There was a barn and a fire and a swing. There were stumps to sit on and turkey to eat. There was laughter and tears and hugging and clinging. There were questions and answers and knowing. There was healing. There was so much healing in that barn. I heard stories with fresh ears. I learned new pieces of history, pieces a child couldn’t have known. I leaned in and was embraced. I realized I was never an orphan, only a missing child. I have been found.

It was when I finally made peace with being without that God surprised me with a gift. I never gave up on asking but had come to be okay with the answer being negative. God is so faithful. He is so loving and he is so good. He is extravagant in the gifts he gives. As we enter this season of Advent, this time of waiting, I think about the people who prayed for hundreds of years for a word from God; an answer. They prayed to be connected. And then there was a barn where He displayed extravagance. This God of love couldn’t stand his people being separated from him by sin and they needed a Savior. He sent his one and only Son, not as a mighty warrior in a palace, but as a baby who needed a family. The one who would save the world came as a helpless child; a baby w ho needed touch and skin and love. A baby born into family.

I pray that you would hear the story fresh this year; that your heart would be fertile soil for beauty to grow. I pray that you would not give up on asking God for new revelation, new connections, and new perspective. I pray that you would see wounds heal and scars fade. I pray that you would know where you came from and know how to move forward. I pray you too, will experience extravagance from a barn.