A Slice of Humble Pie

This past week welcomed a new leader to the world stage.  Pope Francis has the distinguished honor of representing millions of professing believers around the world, to the world.

But amid the pomp and circumstance surrounding the Vatican and Church members in their assortment of vestments is an intriguing word on the street about this new pope.  Humble and servant-hearted, they call him. He hasn’t cached in on mansions and limousines and professional cooks that his previous prestigious positions (how’s that for a tongue twister?) might have afforded him. He seems to prefer an apartment, public transportation and cooking his own meals.

Only time and eternity will reveal the true heart and motives of this man, but the fact that his humility has been overtly pointed out by the press makes a statement: humility has become a novelty to this world and, dare I say it, to the Church as well.

I think a lot of us can recite verses on humility and recount the story of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet. But if you’re like me — or at least how I was — you probably had a very basic understanding of humility . . . like don’t gloat when you score the winning goal or get promoted or really just kick butt at something.

But I read this book once, Humility by Andrew Murray, which completely overturned my view on humility. It threw my primitive and self-focused perspective on the matter out the window and ,well, pretty much altered my entire understanding of what it means to live a Christian life. It is a subject that is vastly under-preached and under-appreciated.

I am proud to say that I have now reached a full measure of humility. I’m kidding. But I did learn this: humility is found first and foremost in a posture of brokenness before the Lord. It is grasped in understanding the might and love and power of my heavenly Father and my complete weakness apart from Him.

That’s it.  Humility isn’t just about avoiding the appearance of arrogance. It is ultimately a heart motive that stems from our right view of ourselves before God. He is great, and our value is found in Him and Him alone. To put it another way, the beauty of the gospel is not  that we are sinners, but that God is so loving and great as to save!

In her book, Brokenness: The Heart that Revives, Nancy Leigh DeMoss highlights some strikingly resonant characteristics of prideful people and the corresponding attitude of brokenness, or humility that should replace it.

  1. Proud people have a critical, faultfinding spirit. They look at everyone else’s faults with a microscope, but view their own with a telescope. Broken people are compassionate – they have the kind of love that overlooks a multitude of sins; they can forgive much because they know how much they have been forgiven.
  2. Proud people are especially prone to criticize those in positions of authority – their pastor, their boss, their husband, their parents – and they talk to others about the faults they see. Broken people reverence, encourage, and lift up those that God has placed in positions of authority, and they talk to God in intercession, rather than gossiping about the faults they see in others.
  3. Proud people claim rights and have a demanding spirit. Broken people yield their rights and have a meek spirit.
  4. Proud people desire to be known as a success. Broken people are motivated to be faithful and to make others successful.
  5. Proud people are unapproachable or defensive when corrected. Broken people receive correction with a humble, open spirit.

It was kind of an “oh shoot” moment for me when I first read this, and these are just a few of her points. How pride had crept so sneakily into my everyday attitudes and behaviors! But in the process of getting hit with my own ego, I was forced to recognize just how important it was to fear the Lord, to walk humbly before my God. Every area of my life – every decision, response and relationship – seemed to be affected by my either humble or prideful perspective. I either exalted and sought to preserve self, or I knelt before the throne of God.

When we understand our world and our lives as small (though not insignificant) and wholly dependent on God alone, then we are walking in humility. To think and act otherwise is pride. Our motives either seek to preserve and glorify self, or we seek to exalt God. And evidence of humility and pride is found in the simple and everyday parts of life.

But humility is not to walk a crippled life. It is to tap in to the source of ultimate love and power by recognizing our status as mere humans and the greatness of our God who saves.

Denying mansions and limousines for a humbler lifestyle seems trivial to those of us who don’t have the choice anyway.  But humility has far greater implications than rejecting the life of the rich and the famous. It is part of the foundation of the everyday and the simple, of living the full life that most of us desire so greatly to live.

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Posted in Current Events, Theology & Philosophy, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Be Strong and Courageous

There’s something about a person exhibiting courage that moves me perhaps more than anything else in this world. A firefighter rescuing someone from a burning building. A family adopting an orphan. A missionary giving up his/her life to bring the gospel to an unreached people group. A person standing up for what is right, even if they will look bad – or worse. God making Himself flesh so that He could take on the sins of the world and die a brutal death so that we don’t have to.

These are courageous acts. And they inspire me.

In the earliest days of 2010, the Lord kept prompting me to read Joshua, so I kept reading it. I didn’t mind. Joshua is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. But I kept getting stuck at Joshua 1:9 (not very far in, I know): “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”

Days later, I was in the hospital with leukemia.

At first I thought maybe that was why God seemed to be telling me to be strong and courageous . . . and maybe it was. But I didn’t feel that way. People would tell me all the time: “Lyndsay, you’re so strong going through this. You are so brave.” I couldn’t tell if they just thought they were supposed to say that or if they genuinely thought it, but I disagreed. There’s no way I would have chosen to go through that. I had no choice (well, my alternative would have been death, which wasn’t really an option to me). I didn’t feel strong and courageous.

Dictionary.com defines courage as: “The quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc., without fear; bravery.”

According to something I pinned on Pinterest, John Wayne defines courage this way: “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” I like that definition. Fear may be inevitable, but we have the ability to operate rightly in the midst of it with a little something called courage.

When I got out of the hospital many weeks later, I felt convicted about my courage. As a teenager I had been full of it, traveling the world to serve the poor and spread the gospel. I did all kinds of things that were challenging and scary, but fear simply didn’t hold me back. Somehow, as an adult, that changed. I found my comfort zone and did everything I could to stay inside it. And then life started to feel very mediocre.

I have had plenty of things happen in my life that people could point to and say that it required courage for me to walk through, and they would be right. But they weren’t things that I chose. They happened to me, and it’s still within my comfort zone to do the right thing even in a tough situation that is out of my control. For me, I knew I had to take a bigger step.

I began to think about who I told myself I was – or rather, who I told myself I wasn’t. What box had I put myself in that I wouldn’t step outside of? Whether it was from things other people had said about me or things that were self-imposed, I realized that I told myself I wasn’t creative. “I don’t have a creative bone in my body,” I would say to people.

My God is a VERY creative God, and, being that I’m created in His image, etc., I realized this conclusion about myself being a-creative (yes, I made that up), was probably wrong. So I “saddled up” and tried something creative that was the MOST intimidating to me: acting.

My first day in class, I was terrified. My second, third, fourth, etc., I was still terrified, but my courage grew, and my determination was solid. I began to see that I was not as bad or hopeless at it as I thought I would be. Quickly, it became something that I absolutely loved, and have even booked paying acting jobs as I’ve invested in learning the craft.

Next came writing . . . of the fiction variety. I hadn’t even read fiction in years, let alone thought of writing it. But I’m now working on my third fiction project, each one over 100,000 words, and I’ve discovered that I love that too, and with practice, I’m not half bad.

I wonder if I’m not the only one stuck in an un-courageous, comfort-zone rut. Obviously what I stepped out in was nothing of the life-saving variety, but it was exactly what I needed to be obedient to God and to see what else He’s made me for. He’s made me with far more potential than I ever allowed Him to have credit for. He’s worthy of that glory.

If there’s something that has stirred in you that you’ve avoided because it would take courage, embarrass you, go against your personality type, etc., then I would encourage you to stop believing that you CAN’T do something and know that you CAN.

Stop making excuses.

Stop letting fear determine your actions.

This one life we have been given has endless possibilities, and they are all opportunities to honor our Lord.

Be strong and courageous.

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Posted in Being a Woman, Self Esteem | 9 Comments

Hosting a Passover Seder

Our Seder with beloved friends and family in 2008

Hosting a Passover Seder is one of the biggest highlights for my family each year. We LOVE it. And we wish we had more room so we could invite many more people, because there are dozens who look forward to it with us each year as much as we do. We just can’t fit everyone!

So, my suggestion? Host one! You DON’T have to be an expert!

There are a bunch of things you need to acquire from the start, but you can reuse them every year, and soon it will become so easy! So I’m going to do this post kind of like a recipe: the items you need, and then the preparation instructions.

Items you will need:

  • 1 Haggadah for each person. We’ve been using the same ones for over a decade and we really like it. You can find it here.
  • 1 Seder Plate per table. We have a couple of different kinds, and you can find them in spades online. Here‘s a pretty one for a very decent price.
  • Per Seder Plate, you will need: a sprig of parsley, a leaf of lettuce, a roasted/hard boiled egg, a shank bone or chicken wing or neck, horseradish, and charoset (you can find my recipe here).
  • At least once piece of matzah bread per person. We like Manisschewitz.
  • 1 candle per table and a lighter or matches.
  • 1-2 plates per setting, flatware, napkins, wine glass and water glass per setting. (We do 2 plates – one small plate for the ceremonial foods, and one  larger plate for the festival meal, plus a bowl for the matzah ball soup!)
  • Wine or sparkling grape juice. Enough for each person to have two glasses or more.
  • A bowl of salt water per person and a bowl of regular water per person. (We actually do one every other person at the table for space purposes.)
  • 1 Matzah Tosh (or Tash) bag. You can find a pretty nice one here or I would imagine it would be fairly simple to make.
  • 1 afikoman cover. This website has some nice ones to choose from for good prices. Although this would also seem easy to make.
  • Goblet for Elijah.
  • Matzah ball soup. This isn’t technically required, but it’s still a tradition. We usually buy a box mix at the grocery store and it’s delicious!
  • Festival meal. You can provide this yourself, or you can do it like a potluck. We usually go the potluck route and save ourselves a bit of time and money.


First thing’s first. The Passover Seder marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday Passover which is basically the week before Easter. You can check online each year for exact dates. We usually just choose a day during Passover to observe the Seder. Since they typically take place on week nights, we usually start ours around 6:30 p.m. to allow time for people to get off work and come. Decide how many people you can make room for and get your invitations out early! We try to invite people a month in advance. Since we do it potluck style, when we receive RSVP’s, we ask our guests to bring a specific part of the meal: side, dessert, salad, bread, wine, etc.

To start, there are three parts to the Passover Seder which are broken down for you in the Haggadah. Times will vary, but ours typically goes like this: time before the meal – 40 minutes; festival meal – 45 minutes; time after the meal – 30 minutes. So you’re looking at 2-3 hours total.

The person leading the Seder is usually the head of the household. He should get acquainted with the Haggadah before going through it with guests. To be clear, the Haggadah contains the complete order of service. Order the booklet, read it, and I bet most of your questions will be answered. 😉 I would suggest making notes in it, including phonetic translations if some words are hard, scriptures he may want to read, or additional information or observations he may want to include.

My dad leading our Seder in 2008

You’ll notice that there are several other readers called for in the Haggadah in different parts. The hyper-planner in me always wants to have these people chosen and confirmed ahead of time, but we’ve found it to be simpler if we just ask certain guests as they arrive (of course giving them permission to say no if they don’t want to do it).

Our friend Clayton reading part of the text from the Haggadah.

You’ll also notice there are a few songs in Hebrew in the Haggadah. You can find audio files of some of these songs at this website if you’d like to incorporate a little music into your celebration. We have yet to do this . . . maybe this year we’ll give it a try!

Our Passover Seder table prior to guests arriving.
This is the Haggadah book that should be placed at each setting.

Setting your table, once you have all the elements, is a cinch! At each table you will have a place setting, water glass, and wine glass for each person. (For guidelines on how to set the proper place setting, my favorite is by the queen of etiquette, Emily Post.) Bottles of wine or karafes should be kept either at the table or close by. There should be a bowl of regular water for “hand washing” (more like finger-dipping) and a bowl of salt water to dip the karpas into. You could provide one that gets passed around, one per person, or some variation. We do the two bowls every two or three people. We also differentiate the salt water from the regular water by putting a sprig of parsley in the salt water, since ours are in identical bowls. Matzah bread/crackers should be available to each person as well. We normally have a plate of matzah at each end of the table for people to pass around. Elijah’s goblet/glass should be placed at one of your tables as well. Each table gets one candle (which the lady of the house will light as the Haggadah directs), and one Seder plate.

Seder plate with all the ceremonial items.

Above, you see the Seder plate. I’m not sure why our bitter herb that year was pink, but apparently that was our horseradish. It also appears we chose an onion rather than a leaf of lettuce. Obviously we like to get creative sometimes. This plate can be prepared in advance to keep the last minute details at a minimum. The parts that are actually eaten are the karpas (parsley), the maror (the bitter herb/horseradish), and the charoset (apple and nut mixture), which we usually go ahead and put a little of each on the individual plates just before guests arrive so they don’t have to dish from the Seder plate.

Individual plate of ceremonial items to be tasted. This one has white horseradish and has already been dug into.

Also, make sure you get your matzah tosh cloth ready to go and place it at the leader’s place setting for easy access. The cloth to hide the afikoman in should also be kept readily handy.

My dad showing our guests the 3 compartments of the matzah tosh at our Seder in 2011.

Since it’s dinner time when people arrive but they’re looking at another hour before the festival meal, we usually start with a nice hot bowl of matzah ball soup. It’s always a hit and does quite well at holding people’s growling stomachs at bay. Sometimes we’ll actually assemble the matzah balls the day before and keep them refrigerated to cook the day of the Seder. But of course you can time it to your convenience.

Have your meal ready and waiting, keeping in mind for baking and temperatures that it will be about an hour after guests arrive before it will actually be eaten. Sometimes one of us will excuse ourselves during the ceremony to put something in the oven, but if you’re not a veteran, don’t let the food distract you! As I mentioned before, we do ours potluck style. We set it up like a buffet in a separate dining room and have people bring their plates in and help themselves during the festival meal time.

Now your celebration begins! Light the candles and follow the Haggadah! Take time to discuss and ask questions if you like. Enjoy the meal in the middle, and soak it all in. There’s so much depth to each part of the ceremony. Some of it may seem funny (we laught a LOT at our Seders), some of it may be very moving. I encourage you to embrace it all!

There are lots of resources online in case you have more questions. I barely scratched the surface of explaining all the symbolism in my last article, so you may find further research on those things useful, although the Haggadah does quite a good job at explaining a lot.

If you’re convinced you need to incoporate this tradition into your Easter holiday but don’t feel ready to host one, I would encourage you to find one locally to attend. It’s usually easy to find a church that is doing one and would welcome you gladly. For my Sacramento area folks, Harvest Community Church in Roseville does a Seder annually that has a great reputation.

Lastly, please use the comment section to ask questions I didn’t answer in this article! I’m so happy to help!

With that, enjoy your Passover Seder! Next year in Jerusalem!

Posted in Culture & Media, Current Events, Food & Drink, History, Recipes, Uncategorized | 1 Comment


Charoset is one of the items on a Seder plate that represents the mortar the Israelites used when making the grand buildings of Egypt. This sweet apple & nut mixture has been used in my family for years and remains my favorite, so I wanted to share it with you!

2 red apples, cored and finely chopped (skins on)

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 tsp cinnamon

2 Tbsp sweet red wine or grape juice

4 tsp honey

Mix all together in a large bowl and enjoy! Serves 10-12.

Posted in Culture & Media, Current Events, Food & Drink, History, Recipes, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Dear Finley

Adrienne and her long awaited daughter, Finley

October 10, 2012

Hi Baby,

Tonight I am sitting at the little coffee shop in our neighborhood. The leaves are starting to fall and the air is getting cooler. I am snuggled up in a big chair outside under twinkle lights with a warm coffee and I am supposed to be doing homework but I am only thinking of you, my little one. Always, I am thinking of you.

This morning I put on my hoodie for the first time this season and instead of fully relishing the coming of my favorite time of year, all I could think about was how I thought you would be with us by autumn. I thought we would be holding you by now. I thought we would be getting you bundled up in your little jacket and putting socks on your little feet. I thought there would be five of us snuggling in our bed this morning, laughing and being silly and not wanting to get up and start the day. Instead, I am marking two years since we set out to find you and bring you home.

I wonder about you. I wonder what your little hands are going to look like or if you have sweet chubby cheeks. I wonder what you will smell like. I wonder how it will feel when you look me in the eyes, or when you call me “mommy”. I also think about what it will do to my heart if you ever feel sad or lonely or lost, things that may very well come our way. But when you are lost, a part of me will feel lost, my love. When you feel alone, so will a little piece of me. And that is how you will know that you are never facing it all by yourself, because your mommy has been facing it with you before she even saw your face. Because for every moment you have felt unwanted, I have spent one wanting you more than anything else in this world.

These two years, I’ve watched your beautiful brothers grow and change and I’ve watched your beautiful cousins be born and families grow all around us. I can’t imagine your face, so I just think about your weight in my arms. I think about the sound of you laughing.

Tonight, I wonder where you are, my little sweetie. I wonder if you feel afraid or if you had hugs and kisses before you went to bed. I wonder if anyone reads books to you or rubs your back or plays with your hair or sings you songs. I think about things. Like if you have a night light in your room. Are you afraid in the dark? Are your jammies warm enough tonight, with the cooler weather? Is your tummy nice and full? Are you crying? Are you dreaming? Are you curled up in a little ball, fast asleep?

I wonder if you somehow know that I’m thinking about you, as you lay there in the dark, looking around, in the quiet. Maybe somehow, some way, you know that your mommy is thinking about you right now, and you have peace, but I don’t really know.

I plead with God and ask him to keep you safe, to protect your tiny, tender heart when I cannot be there to do it. I ask Him to surround you and sing you songs and be near to you when you are scared. I beg Him to guard your mind from anything that might hurt you or confuse you or plant seeds of anger deep down inside of you. I am waiting every day. I am waiting every moment, for my phone to ring. I am hoping every hour that you are about to come home to me so that I can tell you over and over and over again the thing that I’ve said to you in my heart a thousand times.

I love you, baby. I love you so much.

And even though I’ve never seen you and I don’t know your name and I don’t know when I will get to finally snuggle with you, I can wait for as long as it takes. Even when I feel like I can’t, I can wait until God opens the door and makes a way for you to come home. Until then, I’ll sing you my own songs and think about you being in the back seat when I’m driving, and about eating pancakes with you on Saturday mornings, and about watching you sleep that deep kind of sleep, the one that tells me that you know you are safe.

Night night, my little love.

Your Forever Mommy

Photo provided by Adrienne, for the time being Adrienne is not posting Finley’s photo online.

Posted in Being a Woman, Family, Parenting | 8 Comments