less trying, more dying.

But there must be a real giving up of the self … The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (the concluding paragraph)

a flat.

After nearly four years off, I'm trying to get back into blogging. Exercising my writing muscles here with a simple account of yesterday. …

Nashville is having what feels like its 427th day of rain this winter. So. many. gray. days.

Two days ago, the light on my dashboard indicated low air pressure in my rear left tire. Yesterday morning, I planned to take care of it on my way to work. It was pouring rain.

I pulled into the gas station at the entrance of our neighborhood. Use of the air compressor was $1 – quarters only. I dug through the change in my cupholder but only came up with 75 cents. No problem, I thought. There's a Kroger just up the road. I pulled into Kroger and paid the $1.25 with my card and tried holding Elijah's Spiderman umbrella (which I found in the backseat) between my head and shoulder as I used two hands to hold the hose to the tire. There was a lot of air blowing back on me and absolutely no pressure registering on the manual gauge connected to the hose. It could have been user error, but I've inflated enough tires in my life to conclude their hose was broken.

I got back in the car and headed west to the gas station at Nipper's Corner. The air compressor was next to a parking spot at the McDonald's but as soon as I pulled in, I could see paper covering the credit card device. I couldn't make out what it said, but it surely didn't say "This device is working properly," so I backed out and went down the road.

At Old Hickory and I-65, in Brentwood, there are three gas stations in close proximity. I pulled into one off Franklin Pike and swiped my card, but the screen that usually shows "Processing … Approved…" was only showing black boxes. I gave up after a couple swipes and went around the corner. Finally, the machine worked.

Four minutes for $1.50. The gauge was digital and the air was supposed to automatically shut off at 32 psi. Perfect. I knelt next to my tire, pulling up the hood on my rain jacket and held the hose at just the right position so I wasn't feeling or hearing air escaping. I had to hold it tightly and twist my head around to read the gauge on the machine. It was registering something like 5psi, then 12 … 10 … 12 … 15 … 10 …15, 20, 21, 22, … 20 … finally, 24 and then my four minutes was up. By this time—five gas stations later—I was running late to work so I figured 24 was good enough and resolved to stop at Discount Tire on my way home. (If your tire just needs inflated, they'll do that for free.)

Fast-forward to 3:30pm. Still raining. I pulled into the Discount Tire about a mile from our neighborhood and one of the guys checked my tire. It was not registering much pressure so he said there was likely something in it; they'd take a look at it, but the wait was 90 minutes. I called Nate, who loaded up the kids and came to get me. We cleaned up the house before MC (missional community group) and at 5pm Discount Tire called. There was a nail in my tire, and it was too close to the edge to just repair the tire. I'd need a new one. The cheapest option was $112.

I agreed and since our friends we were expecting for MC were running late, I hopped into Nate's car to get the key to my car before Discount Tire closed at 6pm. (By the way, Nate's car is a manual and I learned last summer how to drive it. It was a rough start but I'm pretty awesome at driving a stick now and proud of myself for learning this skill.) They pulled my car right up to the curb, so I ended up driving my car home and leaving Nate's car parked there.

Our MC has dinner together before diving into deeper things. They surprised me with a birthday cake and an honor time, which was really sweet and encouraging. After MC, I got a ride back to Discount Tire and drove Nate's car home. Nate offered to go get it, but I said he could run bedtime instead. ;-)


the great denver adventure.

January 2017:

The phrase roll with the punches is a boxing idea: "to move one's body away from an opponent's blows so as to lessen the impact." In other words, rather than leaning into the punch or resisting it, be flexible with it and it will hurt less. "Rolling with the punches" is how Nate described our recent travel experience. I might have described it as a travel nightmare or "If it can go wrong, it probably did." Someone did point out that on their travel nightmare, they briefly lost one of their children. It didn't get that bad, but it was … an adventure, to say the least.

We've been back from our Christmas vacation for over a week now, but the story of our travels keeps running through my mind, so I want to write it down so I will remember.

We swap Christmases between Nate's and my family. Basically, even years are spent with Nate's family and odd years are spent with mine. It simplifies traveling for us. So this year—2016—we booked a trip out to Denver to spend a week with Nate's extended family in a rented mountain house in Silverthorne.

Saturday morning (Dec. 17), we got up very early and drove to our friend's house. He was going to drive us to the airport and park our car at his house so we could save on taxi costs when we returned. (He lives closer to the airport than we do.) Just as we were pulling onto his street, Nate suggested I check the status of our flight to see if it was running behind. As I pulled out my phone, and email popped up from Southwest Airlines: Flight ### has been cancelled.

What? Cancelled?! They provided a customer service number to call, but no details about their alternate plan to get us to Denver. Apparently they didn't have an alternate plan. That was up to us to figure out. I quickly called the number and got on the waitlist to speak to someone; they would call me back. We decided to go ahead and go to the airport because it might be easier to get on another flight if we were there rather than head home and sit around all day. Besides, we had hyped up the trip so much with Elijah that I hated the idea of turning around and explaining to him that actually we were not going to Denver.

Flights on the website showed everything was sold out for the next several days. We got to the airport, and I waited with the kids (Elsa strapped to my chest in the Ergo and Elijah sitting in his car seat) while Nate stood in a long line to get new tickets. They said they had seats to Denver the following Monday. Possible, but not ideal. The family planned to head into the mountains on Monday. Plus, Nate had tickets to the Broncos vs. Patriots game on Sunday and he was really looking forward to going.

I gave Elijah snacks to keep him quiet, but he was getting really impatient. He started yelling, "Change my diaper!" and even though I didn't think he needed a new diaper, I couldn't ignore him so I laid him down behind a bench and changed his diaper. (It was barely wet.) Nate let me know that he was able to get tickets to Kansas City for that morning, in a couple of hours. So we checked our bags and got in line for security. The line was long, and Elijah did not like waiting. (I can't blame him.) We promised to buy him a special treat—whatever he wanted!—as soon as we got through security.

We made it through, grabbed a granola breakfast bar for Elijah, and went to our gate. The plane to Kansas City was delayed, but we were glad to get going in the right direction. We hoped to find a flight from KC to Denver once we got there. Our back-up options were to rent a car and drive west toward Denver or rent a car, drive to my parents' and stay the night, and then drive out on Sunday. Nate went ahead and reserved a rental car in KC just in case.

When we got to Kansas City, the gate agent told us there were two flights to Denver later than day—1:40 and 6:40—but they were full and we could split up (one adult and one kid) and wait on standby. There was no guarantee of a seat. We didn't want to wait around all day in the airport for just a chance at a seat, so we decided to rent a car.

We got our bags (two rolling suitcases, two car seats, one rolling duffel bag, two backpacks, two kids … too much!) and went outside to find the shuttle to the rental car place. It was freezing! KC had freezing rain all morning, which had turned to snow. The wind was biting. I was still wearing Elsa and trying to keep a hold of Elijah's hand while Nate pushed a cart full of our luggage. Elijah didn't want to walk in the cold wind and snow. He wanted to be carried. Not really an option.

The shuttle was at the end of the terminal, so we started trudging our way down the sidewalk but the luggage was falling and Elijah was upset and I was stressing out. So Nate said he would get the luggage down there if I could take the kids inside the terminal where it was warm. So that's what we did. When the shuttle arrived, we scurried out and got on. Then we got our luggage up to the rental car area. Nate went up to the desk because Elijah basically refused to walk at this point, or at least not faster than 0.5 mph.

Nate got to the Hertz desk, and they didn't have our reservation for some reason but they assured us that they could help us out. This middle-aged guy with an eye patch clicked around while I paced, bouncing Elsa and trying to keep Elijah from pulling all the Christmas decorations off the tree in the little waiting area.

I approached the counter as the guy was explaining the details of the car and he subtly mentioned we were going to be covered in case of an accident, and I stopped him. "Wait—is that extra?" He looked at me. "Yes …" and I said, "We don't want any supplemental insurance. I talked to our insurance agent before the trip and they said rental cars are covered by our policy." (I had talked to our agent.) He began questioning me: "Well do they cover this? Do they cover the deductible? I used to work in insurance and I know that there are a lot of very rich people sitting in big offices and you know how they got there?" Yada-yada. I wanted to roll my eyes. "We just don't want anything extra," I said. I wanted to say, "I know a lot of rental car execs that are rich and sitting in big offices too. You know how they got there? By selling people things they don't need."

Whatever. Nate went out to get the car, only to find it was not under an awning and thus completely iced over. So I waited with the kids while he tried to warm it up and chip off the ice. Elijah was hungry and tired, so we got him set up with a snack and a show on the iPad. I sat on a couch to feed Elsa and unpack the car seats. When the car was finally thawed enough, we got in and headed west.

It was snowing pretty good. The car had all-wheel drive and handled it pretty well. We started seeing cars in ditches through Kansas City and closer to Topeka. Somewhere along I-70, the kids fell asleep. We thought we would try to make it to Hays, Kansas, but as the winter weather kept up, the sun started going down, and we felt more tired, we decided to stop in Salina. We found a hotel with a pool and booked a room. Relief.

Sunday (Dec. 18)—We got up early and hit the road by 5 a.m. It was bitterly cold. The thermometer on the car was reading -17 degrees. It never gets that cold in Nashville. Ever. The average high in December is 49. But we felt refreshed and excited to get to Denver.

The kids slept some more and the drive west was fairly uneventful. With the time change, we made it to Denver before lunch. Nate and his mom headed out right away to go to the Broncos game. We stayed at Nana Ruth's house, which is beautiful and has a lot of pottery and art and things kids shouldn't touch. Nate's dad (Lyle), Nana Ruth, and I decided to go to the mall with Elijah and Elsa so Elijah could run off some energy at the indoor playground.

First we stopped for lunch. Elijah didn't eat much. Then we went to the playground. Nana Ruth and I sat with Elsa while Lyle watch Elijah run around with a few dozen other kids. It was one of those enclosed foam indoor playgrounds that have small slides and low obstacles to jump on and climb. I looked up to see Lyle motioning at me, so I walked over. (Elsa was in her Ergo, strapped to my chest.) Elijah was standing at his legs, and his outfit was covered in puke. There were big puddles of puke in two spots nearby.

I grabbed a blanket from Elsa's diaper bag and wiped off Elijah's face and clothes. We used wipes to cover the puke so no one would step in it. I looked around for mall help. In Nashville, there's a kiosk near the kids' playground, but I saw nothing here at Cherry Creek. So I ducked into a shoe store and told the lady at the counter, "Um, someone just threw up on the playground and we don't know who to contact. Are you able to call mall security or something?" (Ha, not sure why I didn't own up to it being my kid who puked.) She said she could call someone.

I went back to Lyle and Elijah. Lyle was trying to keep other kids out of the puke which was surprisingly difficult. Kids were running around without looking where they were going. We waited. I couldn't see anyone coming. Finally, I saw a janitor going by. He didn't seem aware of the situation, so I told him. Shortly afterward, two security guards showed up. We picked up our things and made our way back to the car.

I needed diapers and baby food, so we stopped at the grocery store on the way home. I ran in and came back out to find that Elijah had puked again, all over himself and a little on his car seat. We made it home and I carried him upstairs to the bathroom for a bath. He snuggled the rest of the afternoon and then fell asleep for the evening. Nana Ruth's dog, Barney, laid next to him on the bed.

On Monday (Dec. 19), we packed up our things and our cars and drove about 90 minutes west into the mountains. There was a huge cabin in Silverthorne where we would spend the next week at about 9,300 feet. (Denver—Mile-High City—is approximately 5,280 feet.) For comparison, Nashville sits around 800 feet. The cabin was beautiful. The mountains were beautiful. The snow was beautiful. We unloaded and the whole family arrived throughout the day: Nona, Papa, Nana, David, Andrew, Emily, Andy, Caitlin, Daniel, Evelyn, Michael, Ahnie, Ellie, and Sarah.

A year ago, I wrote this but never finished. The rest of the week in the mountains was marked by extreme nausea and altitude sickness (me), and norovirus (every.single.person. except Lisa, me, and Andy).

When we flew back into Nashville close to midnight, our Lyft driver informed us we could not get in his car because regardless of the fact that he was driving a mini van, we had "too many suitcases" and would need to request a different type of Lyft that would cost more. I tried to argue with him, pointing out that we could easily fit in his car. I wanted to cry but I think I just said, "Fine! We'll just take a taxi!" and directed Elijah who was walking and helped Nate drag our two car seats to the area where the taxis were lined up. We got in and made small talk with Mohammed until we got to our car, parked at our friends' house a few miles from the airport.

We unloaded all of our stuff into the end-of-December-cold-night-air and Nate got in our car to start it and … nothing. The battery was dead. One of the doors didn't get shut all the way when we left it and now, a week later, it was dead. Mohammed tried to help us jump start it while I called our insurance company (Liberty Mutual has roadside assistance). The jump start wasn't working and we tried to insist that Mohammed could go on, but our roadside assistance alerted us that help would be on the way in approximately 45 minutes. We had two babies outside and were still miles from home. Our friends, whose house we had left our car at, weren't home.

We decided the best route now was for Nate to stay and wait on assistance while Mohammed drove me and the kids the rest of the way home. We got home and I got out my credit card to pay the fare, and Mohammed refused to let me pay for the extra trip home. He helped me carry our suitcases up the stairs to the door. The kids were sleeping in their car seats, and we carried them inside. Then he left.

A few minutes passed and I realized I was missing my backpack. I called Nate, who confirmed it wasn't in our car, and realized I had left it in the taxi. I'm pretty sure I was sobbing at this point over the misfortunes that wouldn't end. Well at some point in the jump starting attempts with the taxi, Mohammed had given Nate his business card. So Nate was able to call him and (our car was now jump started by roadside assistance) Nate met up with Mohammed in a Kroger parking lot to retrieve my backpack.

I told Nate, "I'm never leaving Nashville again." Of course, that didn't happen but it is a case for why I don't enjoy traveling … so much can go wrong that you don't have control over and it's super stressful. Please come to visit us in Nashville instead. I will pay for your flight out. ;-)


the one who suffered well.

One of my favorite sermons: from Kevin Cawley at Redeemer Fellowship in Kansas City. It was about Psalm 73:1-28 and suffering. If you don't have 40 minutes, listen to the 3 short minutes between 37:0040:16 after which Kevin pointed out that our hope should not be in doing ______ better. Fill in the blank. Put your hope in Christ. This is such good news.

Let me tell you about a friend of ours in our church network. Because I want us to hear not only is hope for us, and God’s good for us not in the absence of suffering but in the presence of God, but what we need to realize as a church is your hope will never be in suffering well. Like I don’t want us to hear this psalm and go, “Oh, man. What I need to do is just kind of be satisfied in God; I just need to have a stiff upper lip. I just need to suffer well.” Because that will kill you too.

This is a guy in our network who has planted a church just like this one. And the last couple years of his life have been hell. Absolute hell. He’s had health problems. His wife had insomnia to the point that she literally went insane and he had to instituationalize her against her wishes, with her pleading for him not to do it. He institutionalized his wife, and now he’s got to deal with his kids who are sick, and he’s sick, and a growing church. And he said, “I got to the point where like, I just realized I wasn’t suffering well. Like what had been pitched at me was, aren’t we just supposed to say, ‘Oh God, You’re my strength and you’re my portion forever’?” And he said, “That was a fa├žade to me; I couldn’t say it anymore.”

And he hit the second round of doubt. And so he said, “I wasn’t suffering well. I’m supposed to be a pastor. I’m going to stand on the stage a preach this; if I can’t do it, what should I do?” And so he resolved to kill himself. He said, “I’m not stupid. I found a way that I could end my own life and maintain life insurance for my family.” And so he drives out in his truck on his way to do it—cleaned his house, did everything appropriate, had called his assistance and said he wouldn’t be in for the rest of the day. He’s on his way to kill himself, saying, “Why should I go on? I’m not suffering well. God, I’m not saying that you’re my portion well enough; something’s broken in me.”

And as he drives to end his life, he says God literally—in his truck—spoke to him. And said, “Dude, call somebody. Why don’t you just call and ask for help?” And he’s like, “God, I can’t. I’m ashamed.” “Just call somebody! Ask for help! Why don’t you tell them what you’re dealing with?” “I can’t, God! I’m ashamed! I’m not suffering well!”

And he said at that moment, the Spirit of God just spoke to him and said, “Don’t you understand? That’s why I sent my Son. Nobody suffers well. Your hope cannot be in you suffering well. Your hope can only be in Me suffering well on your behalf. That’s the gospel!”

So we hear this and we say, “God, you are my portion! You’re enough for me! And even when I don’t do that well, I find hope in the fact that you sent your Son because I don’t do it well. You’re enough.” I find my hope—not in how well I suffer, so that people look at me and go, “Man, how does Cawley do that? He must be really holy.”

No, the point is that none of us have anything. We don’t suffer well. Ashap didn’t suffer well, you don’t suffer well, no one suffers well. Our only hope is in finding our identity in the One who suffered well on our behalf. That is the gospel message.

Originally posted on 3/27/11


not shy; intentionally unobtrusive.

Little E (16 months!) was running around the office at the end of the day yesterday. Nate dropped him by on his way to work. He does great with strangers when he's in familiar settings (like our house) but like most toddlers, if you drop him in a new place with new people, he takes awhile to warm up. He's feeling it out. Making sure it's safe.

So I was maybe a little surprised when a (well-intentioned, I'm sure) coworker said, "Is he going to be shy like his Mama?"

I'm not sure why, but I blurted out, "I hope not!"

I wanted to take it back and defend myself: "I'm not shy." Or even defend Elijah. Who knows how his personality will shape over the next decade or two? What if he is like me? Is that such a bad thing?

I'll admit, I did use to be shy—"having or showing nervousness or timidity in the company of other people." That accurately describes middle school and much of high school and college. I was nervous. I was unsure of myself. I lacked confidence. Shyness was a problem because it hindered me. It held me back. It paralyzed me. For me, shyness is negative, but I think what a lot of people recognize as shyness isn't shyness at all.

The synonyms of the word shy—bashful, timid, sheepish, insecure, mousy, unconfident, self-conscious, embarrassed—do not describe who I am now.

In the years of growing up—the last 6 or 7 years—of becoming an adult and moving to a new city and getting married, becoming a mother, and through that all learning about and treasuring and being changed by Jesus—the shyness dissipated. I learned to avoid unhelpful quietness. I learned to contribute as needed. I learned to fake confidence until I actually was confident.

So to set the record straight, I am discreet. Reserved, but not in an anti-social way. It's not shyness. It's not anger or sadness or stuck-upness. It's a sitting back and observing. Deep thinking. Analyzing. Contentedness. Ever since Jesus saved me, I have had nothing to prove. It is a careful attentiveness, intentionally unobtrusive. I am usually careful about the words I choose to speak. I am confident and unembarrassed.

Will E be like his Mama? Maybe. I'll love him and encourage him and give him a safe place to be himself. And if he's loud and talkative, I'll love him and encourage him and give him a safe place to be himself. No matter what.

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