“We’re throwing open our front door
and inviting you in, as we invite Him in.”

If God wired us to move, why does he make us wait?
Our parents are going to die. Are we ready?
This could be the best YES you say today … (+ a free giveaway!)
On choosing sides, and choosing love
How to say “no” and mean it
What do you say to your kids about this day?
The 3 most important things I will do today
Georgia, Hail to Thee … Is that wrong?
What happens when you don’t read the Bible
Have children’s sports become our religion?

If God wired us to move, why does he make us wait?

By Leigh Sain

“Waiting rooms and baseball dug-outs are a lot alike.” My oldest makes this observation glibly as we race into yet another doctor’s office, late.

“How do you figure, that?” I question, wrangling the five-year-old, who has somehow entered the waiting room without his shoes, and with a whistle?

“Well, in both places people have trouble sitting still,” he nods towards his brothers already blowing that whistle and chasing each other around the room.

The waiting rooms and the dug-outs of life are a lot alike. They are hard places to be when you’re wired to move.
“And no one ever really wants to be in either place, plus you never know how long you’re going to have to stay!” he concludes. I confiscate the whistle, grab one running boy by the elbow, and agree with this profound analogy. The little one escapes my grip, though, and heads for the glass bird cage that decorates this particular waiting room. He begins pounding on the glass. Panicked chirping suddenly breaks the silence of the room, and that’s when I notice a huge sign on the outside of the cage: DO NOT TAP ON THE GLASS.  Oops.  I try to redirect my glass tapper. But he’s determined to entertain these frenzied feathered friends and an all-out meltdown ensues, agitating the birds even more. Apparently pitching fits in front of the glass cage should also be prohibited.

This circus is interrupted by my middle son who asks loudly: “Hey Mom, how old do I have to be before I can shoot a gun?” He holds up a magazine picture of a hunter and points to said gun, “I want to shoot deer like that guy, that would be awesome!” Seriously? I let go of the crying five-year-old and shush the loud mouth. The quiet glares of the patiently waiting people intensify. One poor lady with an enormous leg cast even lunges forward, gently trying to keep my little guy from continuing his harassment of the crazed birds, who are now flying head-on into the glass, screeching like mad.

“I think the dugout might be quieter though,” the older one muses. Thankfully, the nurse calls our name just before the middle one asks if you could shoot people or just deer with this particular gun. I have no words to answer that question.

The past six months have been full of waiting room debacles like this one, due largely to a plague of injuries that’s besieged our oldest boy. A freak sledding accident last winter broke five bones in his foot, a bad pass in a basketball game broke his finger, and a barefoot kick to a metal stake cracked his toe.  Add these to the normal ailments of three kids, throw in two sets of braces and, yes, we have spread our chaos into many a doctor’s office waiting room lately.

And these injuries, they have happened in the middle of two consecutive baseball seasons for my 11-year-old sports fanatic. So, much of his waiting has been done on the lonely, dusty bench of a baseball dug-out. It has seemed endless. This waiting. This healing. And his observation is right on: The waiting rooms and the dug-outs of life are a lot alike. They are hard places to be when you’re wired to move. Read More

Our parents are going to die. Are we ready?

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

“How’s your mom doing?”

I get that question a lot these days. Sometimes it is posed by friends who journeyed with me through my father’s illness and death, and understand what a trial these months have been for my mother. So they want to know how she is coming along.

But other times this is really a segue for friends who want to ask about my dad’s death — and also about me. Do you want to talk about it?  What was it like?  Are you ok?  That’s what they are really asking.

This week a year ago, my father was already infected with the bacteria that would kill him six weeks later.

So we start with my mom, and sometimes we do just stop there. But usually I feel ready to talk about how I’m doing too. Those weeks when my dad was sick and dying were complex, and I am still processing a lot of it. So when people ask, I am as curious as they are as to what I will say.

This week a year ago, my father was already infected with the bacteria that would kill him six weeks later, though he showed no symptoms yet.  Those weeks were like traveling on a hilly road.  Only after going for some time were we able to get a glimpse of what the next portion of the journey would look like and how the road would end. Read More

This could be the best YES you say today … (+ a free giveaway!)

By Abigail McConnell

The requests, they fly at me all day long.

Can we have a popsicle?
Can I try out for the travel team?
Can I have an iPhone?
… and now often heard in our house:
Can I take the car?

There’s no dodging them, because I am the parent.  Which means I am The Decider.  Raising kids is an endless series of yes’s and no’s — each one a doorway to yet another set of yes’s or no’s:

Can we have another popsicle?
Can I have 80 bucks for travel team spirit wear?
Can I get unlimited messaging?
… and also recently heard in our house:
Can you please come get me? I just crashed the car!

Who hasn’t looked back and said, “If I’d have just said NO, then there never would’ve been the popsicle vomit/empty wallet/texting addiction/wrecked car?”  It is so tempting to think that if we limit choices and outcomes, life will somehow be easier to control.

Saying yes is hard, because there’s a good chance it’s gonna get messy. That’s parenting.

But what about when the requests are from our friends, our school leaders, our church, our co-workers? What happens when they need our yes or no? (This is becoming a theme around here.)

Saying no is hard, because we feel less valuable when we’re less visible.

Will you join the committee?
Will you take on the fundraiser?
Will you lead the project?

Those decisions are just as tough, especially in our hyper-involved culture where action and leadership are revered, and where nothing — I mean n-o-t-h-i-n-g — is just plain simple (as in, can kids really not play soccer for an hour without needing a full round of CapriSuns and fruit snacks for the whole team after?)

But saying no is hard, because we feel less valuable when we’re less visible.  And we feel our worth by what we do — not by what we don’t do.

But here’s what I have found: In this suburban sea of endless choices, doling out yes’s and no’s is a confusing, stressful mess UNLESS I first have said yes to God:

Do you love me?
Will you feed my sheep?
Will you follow me?

Saying yes to God is when our true worth takes root (though it still might get messy). And that is what this blog is all about: You can say yes to God and be assured that you’re not left all alone to figure out what that means.  Throw your doors open and invite him in, and invite others in with you. Right there in your cul-de-sac.

We hope the things we write will get faith conversations started at your bus stop or in the bleachers — whether it’s about anxiety over our kids or slowing down or what to do when life’s not fair.  We think online community is good, but we’re pretty sure that in-the-flesh community is really where it’s at.


And because we believe this so strongly, we want to share an awesome opportunity with you. (Heads-up Atlanta-area readers!)

THE ROOTED WOMEN’S CONFERENCE, happening in East Cobb Oct. 24-25, will bring together women just like you.  Women who yearn to be rooted in Christ’s love and filled with his power and purpose.  Women who want to say yes to God and who need to explore together what that means. Lysa TerKeurst, best-selling author of the new book The Best Yes and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, will lead us for the weekend. You’ve probably heard of her. If not, look her up.  She’s a huge deal.

Here’s the fun part. We really want you to come to Rooted with us, so we’re giving you (and a friend) a chance to come for free and read The Best Yes. ($90 value!) To enter, just help us spread the word about this blog and The Rooted Conference:


Step 1: TYPE “YES!” in the comments section below (your email will be required), then …

Step 2: CLICK ON  The Cul de Sac’s Facebook’s page, and “LIKE” or COMMENT on the link to this post

**Both steps must be completed for entry!**

If you’re an overachiever, you can EARN ADDITIONAL ENTRIES when you also doing the following:

Like The Rooted Women’s Conference on Facebook
Retweet this post

Hurry, entries accepted only until Saturday Oct. 4.  Winners will be randomly selected and contacted via email (the one you used to enter your comment).  If you already have your ticket, enter anyway to bring your friend, mom, sister or neighbor, and please share this post on your timeline to let your friends know about The Cul de Sac and Rooted — and so they can enter, too!

So let’s do this, people! 

Think of The Rooted Conference as one big cul-de-sac, where everyone’s coming out to talk and laugh and sing and be real together with Jesus.  It’s too easy to live divided up in our households or church circles — sometimes it even feels like you’re choosing sides.  But here’s a chance to gather with your people, the ones who get tangled up in their yes’s and their no’s just like you do.  The ones who feel caught shuttling kids or shuffling papers, but who said yes to God and now need to know what to do next.  Those people. You and me. God meant us to seek him together.

Please say yes.

*For more information about The Rooted Conference click here.

On choosing sides, and choosing love

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

Among my classmates in elementary school, there was an unkempt girl with no friends. She lived in a dingy, haunted-looking, Victorian house behind a metal fence. This was in a northeastern suburb where most of the residences had manicured lawns and private tennis courts, and The Preppy Handbook on their coffee tables.

This girl—I’ll call her L—was also tainted by the rumor that some boys in our class had once asked her to pull up her dress and show them what was underneath, and she complied. This produced a stigma that followed her around for years.

My eight-year-old heart ached for her, and I puzzled over how I might show her kindness—without besmirching myself. But this seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Maintaining my own social standing was hard enough.

Then one day in the lunchroom, L said something ugly to me, and I felt absolved of the burden of helping her. Read More

How to say “no” and mean it

By Beth Hartt

“No” is one of the first words we learn as children. My kids certainly didn’t have a problem saying it while waddling away from me as fast as their toddler legs could manage. But somewhere between childhood and adulthood, our ability to say no gets lost.

I can almost pinpoint the moment I lost my “no’s:” the year my first child started preschool. I SO wanted to be that mom: the one who made great snacks when my kid was snack helper, the one who helped at every class party, the one the teacher knew she could rely on when an extra pair of hands was needed in the classroom. And I became that mom, for the most part (although I quickly gave up on snacks matching the letter of the week, because I’m really not THAT mom).  I said yes to everything and every opportunity.  And it was great for a while because preschool doesn’t demand that much time, so my commitments were manageable. But preschool doesn’t last forever.

I felt pulled in so many directions it made my head spin. I was spread thin and stressed out, and my children were bearing the brunt.

My preschoolers became elementary schoolers, and the yeses started piling up. I felt pulled in so many directions it made my head spin. I was spread thin and stressed out, and my children were bearing the brunt. These were the same children I thought I was helping by taking on all those volunteer obligations. Their innocent requests for homework help or to come watch their mad scooter skills in the driveway were met with, “Can’t you see I’m busy making volunteer calendars/emailing parents/planning a party for your teacher?!” Ouch. Read More

What do you say to your kids about this day?

By Leigh Sain

This day.

It appears on the calendar right out of the sweltering blue of summer and amidst the slow push into fall, breaking the patterned chaos with its remembering. Those crystal clear details of 13 years ago; how the room smelled, where you were standing, how incredibly blue the sky was, whose arm you grabbed, and the sound of the voice of the first person who asked you what was going on. You remember. And every year you marvel at the vivid scenes that replay on demand the instant someone asks you where you were on September 11,2001.

How do you even begin to tell the story of that day? And no matter what I say, I am never sure if I am doing it right.

For my kids, though, this day conjures up no memories. Only through photos and replays on the news do they even get what we mean when we mourn this day each year. And it looks so unreal to them, like a scene from a movie. For the last few years they have asked me, these older two of mine, about this day. “What happened Mama? What were you doing? How did you find out?” And now they are perhaps old enough to understand, but still I hesitate. Will it scare them? Will they feel unsafe? Should I shelter them? How do you even begin to tell the story of that day? And no matter what I say, I am never sure if I am doing it right.

But, I always start with the details, my details. Because I want it to become real to them. And on this day, really, we were all united in those mundane everyday details, the ones that got shattered when evil erupted in the midst of them. Read More

The 3 most important things I will do today

By Abigail McConnell

Twelve years ago this week, our family up and moved to England.  We sold our house, put all our stuff in storage, and with two toddlers in tow, we set off for a new country. Waiting for us in Oxford were our good friends, Mike and Melissa, who had relocated there themselves just the year before. They were invaluable in our move, helping us research housing, fetching us at the airport and giving us advice on life as expats.  But what I remember most was how they lovingly stocked our kitchen before our arrival, filling it with staples for our first night there — right down to hard-to-find American peanut butter and a real drip coffee maker.

I’ve thought of that generosity many times over the years, and it remains one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for us.

A few months ago we discovered that other old friends, Lisa and Dave, were relocating from Connecticut to just a few miles from where we live now, outside of Atlanta.  So when they called asking if I’d mind opening up their new house for them before their big move, I jumped at the chance.  After I got the key from their realtor and let in the cleaning people, I went straight to the grocery store.

Because I could not wait to stock that fridge.

Although Lisa and Dave apologized for putting me out, it was no trouble. It was actually a blast, because I didn’t it out of duty, or in hopes of payback.  I did it for them because someone had done it for me.  There was a day when I walked into a faraway, strange-smelling kitchen that was supposed to be my new home.  It could have been bare and hollow, but it wasn’t.  It was already filled with a little love by someone who had walked into her share of faraway, empty kitchens over the years, too.  And it made all the difference.

Stocking that fridge was a joy, and it makes me think. What if more of my life felt like this?

Please know that this scenario does not characterize my nature.  Keeping my own refrigerator stocked is generally enough of a challenge.  Nor am I the one who’s always right there with a meal when someone gets sick (although I wish I was).  I’m even pretty lame with sending thank you notes.

But stocking that fridge was a joy, and it makes me think. What if more of my life felt like this?  Back in England, I was so grateful that someone had considered me.  They were actually loving me by buying that peanut butter.  And while I did my best to thank them properly at the time, it was a kind of loving that is un-pay-back-able.

I couldn’t reciprocate, but I could do it for someone else.

God loves me in ways that are un-pay-back-able, too.  He loves me though I deny him.  He provides for me even when I forget about him.  He forgives me when I mess up.  He listens to my frustrated cries for help and sends encouragement.  There is no way I can repay God for this grace he extends. I cannot reciprocate. But I can do it for someone else. Read More

Georgia, Hail to Thee … Is that wrong?

By Mary-Evelyn Starnes

My husband Andy is an early riser. Over the years he has learned that I prefer to greet the morning a few hours after he rises — and then only when he brings me some coffee. But this Saturday he will rise earlier than usual and he won’t leave me to sleep. He’ll start talking. Is it 5am? 4:30?!  I’ll want to be mad but I can’t. This is his Christmas morning. This is game day.

Andy and I are Georgia fans. Go Dawgs! Sic ‘em. Woof.

For Andy, it is in his blood — he’s third generation Bulldog. I’m just a baby — this is only my 21st football season. I remember the question asked through perfect teeth and perfect smiles at each of the eighteen sorority houses during rush my freshman year: “Are you goin’ to the game?” I nodded yes eighteen times, but really I had no idea what the big deal was. The season opener was a night game, and it was raucous, like most everything in Athens was before the Hope scholarship required that students keep up their grades. Georgia lost, but the Volunteers’ mascot Smokey had the nerve to walk by our student section and Uga V pounced on him. The fans went crazy, and I fell in love with Georgia football. That was Tennessee 1994.

As Christians, we are supposed to constantly examine our activities and ask ourselves, “Is this activity bringing me closer to God or further away?”

This Saturday, we will trek back to Athens to watch the Dawgs take on Clemson.  Once again, we will spend the day tailgating with friends and family and then head over to the stadium. And once again, as we walk in, the Bullhorn Guy will be near the gates.  He will yell at us, like he does every year, angrily spitting out words like: hell, repent, sin and Jesus. I will sigh and wonder: What’s he trying to accomplish here, and does he think it’s working?  And, while we’re at it, what’s so bad about football?

I suspect the Bullhorn Guy is more concerned about the debauchery that sometimes goes on here than about the game itself.  But maybe he actually does think football is bad. Could he be right? Does football get in the way for people spiritually? Read More

What happens when you don’t read the Bible

By Jennifer Graham Kizer

It’s the end of summer. As usual, I believe in God a little less than I did in May.

These past few months, while the days were warm and lingering, I eased up on myself. Weekends stretched wider. I read one resplendent novel after the next. I did not read my Bible.

My Bible sits stock-still on the kitchen counter, waiting for autumn to return. Autumn will take me by the hand, and lead me back to the prudent routines that propel me forward. The strict bible study program, with the daily homework and rules, will start again in September.

But right now, in these final, sputtering days of August, it’s all still on hold. It’s been several weeks since I’ve been “transformed by the renewing of my mind.” (Romans 12:2)

Jesus says that whatever you choose to look at (and read and hear, etc.) will either fill you with the light of understanding—or the darkness of misinformation. (This is my very rough paraphrase of Matthew 6:22.) By that standard, this temple of mine’s been dimming for weeks.

I don’t think my summer reading—about history and art and politics and people—has filled me with misinformation. I feel more informed. But despite all that reading, I can’t say I was prepared for Lily’s recent return to school. Read More

Have children’s sports become our religion?

By Beth Hartt

The start of school means the start of sports.  The start of sports means the start of scheduling madness.  This year it also means a change for my family.  And I don’t like it.

My kids have played soccer every fall for the last 4 years.  Until now they’ve played at Upward, a low-pressure, Christian-based league that emphasizes teamwork and sportsmanship.  It requires only one practice a week and one game on Saturdays. Each practice includes a devotional and all games start with prayer. That is my kind of sports league — one that places importance on God and time for family.

We’re so busy trying to manage our overwhelming schedules that we don’t notice that their childhoods are slipping through our fingers. 

Truthfully, I would be happy to let my kids age-out at Upward.  But it’s developed a reputation (merited or not) as the league for kids that aren’t that good at sports — and my kids know it.  I’ve resisted moving them to another league because I really don’t want a half dozen practices a week or the possibility of Sunday games.  I value downtime for my kids, and time together as a family. But both of our kids have asked to move to a slightly more competitive rec league.  They’ve watched most of their friends switch, too, and understandably they want to be like them.  In particular, our son is noticing a social chasm forming in school between “the serious sports kids” and those like him, who play recreationally.  He doesn’t want to be the last kid in his grade still playing at Upward.  And I get it. Read More

Copyright 2014 The Cul de Sac.

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