Silly Brothers

Earlier this week I ran across something I wrote in the fall of 2014. Just weeks away from our trip to Colombia, still waiting, still wondering – if and when and how we would ever become a family. It was Spiritual Emphasis Week at Legacy, Del Tackett, the chapel speaker. Tackett is known for his Truth Project, which is why this particular message surprised me. I remember it well. How he spoke that day, of shalom.

Less than a year before it had been Mike’s shalom, and Barb’s – the Spirit speaking through human friends. Nothing Missing. Nothing Broken. “Sonya, Shalom.” God knowing I’d need a word to tell this story. He knows me well.

And now, again, a note written frantically in margins of a glossy card from wooden church pew, October morning. Four years and four months later I shake my head, seeing what I’d written. Seeing all He’s done. Jeremiah 29:11 – For I know the plans I have for you… This verse tattooed right there on Jimmy’s arm. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you… Two months before the boy became an Anderson, Dr. Tackett explained it this way in chapel:

The word prosper is really shalom.

Shalom, Jimmy. It’s right there, inked forever alongside that compass, and this is your story. Plans to give you hope and a future. And didn’t you, just last week, tell this same story in your Crown College interview? Showed them your tattoo, told about leaving one home, and finding another. From south to north, scorching heat to land of unfathomable snow, and who could have known? The guy from admissions tracked us down later in the in the student center where we sat drinking coffee with Sidney. Glad you’re still here. He wanted to tell you right away, it was an easy decision. You’ve been accepted. Hope and a future, college bound. Our youngest son.

There’s another word scribbled on glossy card, posted, too, somewhere on a blog. The word is agape. We translate it love. But that day at chapel, Dr. Tackett said this: 

Agape is the sacrificial zeal that seeks the shalom of another.  

And I am undone.

Oh, my sons. Do you know how much I want to AGAPE you? Do you know how much I want you to prosper?

God Almighty. Increase my capacity to love! 

This whole wild journey. This whole wonderful family. From the very beginning of this Boy Mom story He’s been doing this. Every broken thing made whole. Every missing thing found. Every dream of your Heavenly Father to prosper you holy. Your mom’s dream, too.

Within a few short months each one of my boys will be taking steps toward independence. Life will be changing, for all of us. But don’t think for one minute that changes my desire, and Dad’s, too, to apage you long into the future. To do everything we can to see you shalom-prosper to your fullest, wholest potential. God picked five boys out of all the people on the planet to be mine. Ours. Loved.

There will be hard days ahead for all of us, too. I’m not going to lie. More often than not the rebuilding work of shalom takes sweat and courage. Prospering never happens while you’re taking a nap. But I believe in this. This family. This God-dreamed mission. The grace of Jesus and the zeal of the Spirit. The sacrificial love of the Father who won’t let us down, and won’t let us quit, until every single one of us is whole and holy.

Nothing missing. Nothing broken. Shalom.

Agape forever,


Nils at SALT

(Nils leading worship in Cedar Falls, where today is also a snowday)

Snowday #6 and this is a winter for the record books, no doubt about it. Crazy.

Crazy, too, what happened on Sunday. Kyle, asking me later – What’s the source of your angst? I give him a look and he knows without saying. Twenty-nine winters we’ve been married. And it was February, too, three years back, maybe four. I sat next to Luke in a gym, watching basketball of course, and he knows his mom enough to counsel – You just need spring. And I remember, too, how after saying it, he’d leaned in close, put his arm around me, prayed out loud. A prayer for his mom right there in the bleachers.

Crazy, I tell you. Sunday morning, there at church singing this song, and I grinned my way through it, shaking my head in astonished amusement.

I’ve seen You move, come move the mountains… And I believe, I’ll see You do it again.  

The week prior at Revision Church it was two of my boys leading worship together. Normally this alone enough to sweeten my spirit. Enough to move me to worship. But later I admitted to Kyle. All those songs, and the whole way through, all I could do was question. Do I believe this? Those mountains. Which ones has He moved? And am I willing to say I believe? That He’ll do it again?

Honest questions about real mountains, and I’m confessing to my husband. A brother drinking himself near to death, thirty-six years old with wife and baby girl, and how long have we prayed for this mountain to move? Others, too. A Lazarus prayer for a marriage, and I believed, Kyle and I believing together. People we love, broken, hurting. Lost. And we pray, one mountain and then another, believing.

Always believing, but somehow that Sunday in Des Moines, making our way through snow to church, fighting over Siri’s directions, my heart angsty. A day or two later, still grappling out loud with my husband. We’re back home, back to being sweet, harmonious, the two of us, and he listens while I work it out. I do believe. The mountains He moves right here, under my own roof. The ones He’s moved all these years in my own heart. But why? And I guess this is really the question. Why some and not others?

And then it’s Sunday morning again, back at our home church in Andover. Jeromy leading. And we’re singing this song, and I wish I could take you right there into my crazy head. Kyle and I, side-by-side, thinking about boys, at home, asleep in beds, wishing they’d join us, and we’re believing for this, too. Lyrics large on the screen and I’m professing, with all my heart, no angst whatsoever.

Walking around these walls
I thought by now they’d fall
But You have never failed me yet
Waiting for change to come
Knowing the battle’s won
For You have never failed me yet

Your promise still stands
Great is Your faithfulness, faithfulness
I’m still in Your hands
This is my confidence
You’ve never failed me yet 

All the while I’m singing it out, and I’m having this conversation with God, inside my head. I say to Him, “This is my song. These words are for me. This is what I believe!” And I tell Him this, too. Last week. That song about mountains, I wasn’t sure I could say that and mean it. But this song. This song I believe.

I know the night won’t last
Your Word will come to pass
My heart will sing Your praise again

We’re singing it through, inching closer and closer, and I start to suspect, but I’m still not sure. And then. It’s right there on the screen and coming out of my mouth, and I’m grinning like the Cheshire Cat right there in church. Crazy, I tell you. Because until this very moment I hadn’t known THIS song was THAT song. And it was. Two churches, two Sundays, exact same song. And how could I have missed ALL OF THIS in my angst last week? It’s ridiculous and hilarious and I’m still laughing.

Laughing. Because I’m still waiting for change to come, and there are mountains so big it’s hard to believe they’ll ever move. But I can say this without a moment’s hesitation. Great is Your faithfulness. Faithfulness.

My confidence. You’ve NEVER failed me yet.

I believe.


(Song lyrics from Do It Again, by Elevation Worship)


Snowbound Maple

I sent a text to Angie on Monday: God’s Word for me today was Perseverance. James 1:4. And He was quite clear with me about this. (Crooked smile emoji.)

It has been a whole week of Him being quite clear, and me learning His lessons. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds… Kiana’s sermon online last week, and this past Sunday we were live at Revision, Pastor Mike Howard preaching it again. The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind*… And doubt, Mike says, is what you know minus what you do. Point taken.

The week started blustery and angsty. Our drive to Des Moines and back on icy roads, blown and tossed by winds common to I-35 Cars in ditches there and back, one semi-truck wedged at a horrifying angle into an overpass bridge. I was passenger mostly, helping my husband with timely words of advice. Which led, I suppose, to some of the angst. That and a tense conversation about how one of us loves listening to Siri’s GPS directions, while the other feels like his mom’s in the car. Or his wife. I guess.

All of that. And then Monday morning I’m prepping for work when my cellphone rings. And it’s Kyle asking if I might be able to swing by Rose Park with a shovel because he’s taken a quick spin with the dog to throw the Frisbee and his car’s a bit stuck. (Did I happen to mention he is still post-hip-surgery on crutches?) So I drop Jimmy at school and loop to the park, hand off the shovel to my one-legged-husband, Nissan Rogue quite buried in snow. I’m behind the wheel giving gas in reverse when a neighbor appears, a nurse it would seem, and she just happened to notice crutches propped in a snowbank and a man on one leg digging and pushing, and you might need some help. I roll down the window, not sure what to say.

I drive back home with the shovel, tackle sidewalk and driveway before my husband can do it, head barely in time to my morning meeting. The next day, Tuesday, the fifth school cancelation in less than three weeks, more snow coming, and my ANGST is rising. I’m still sore from yesterday’s shovel, sore, too, about my dear friend’s comment – good thing you’ve got a houseful of boys to help you – and I come home from work, expecting a fight with Said Boys. Pull Jeep up the driveway and it’s Jimmy, shovel in hand, and NO ONE ASKED HIM TO DO IT. An hour later sidewalk and driveway cleared to perfection, the boy walks into the kitchen and I hand him a twenty – $10 for the chore, $10 for volunteering.

Consider it pure joy.

This week, too, memorizing Paul’s long sentence partway into Colossians – being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father**… and I’m starting to notice how this endurance breeds joy.

Today is Friday, the sun is shining, no snow in the forecast (for forty-eight hours), and my husband’s first day free of his crutches. He celebrates by walking his dog to the park. (I do ask out loud if this is what the PA meant when she talked about gradual weening?) But oh, well. We’re doing it. Persevering, enduring, giving thanks to the Father.

Honestly though. The past week has been a lot more than snow and angst and shoveling driveways. There’s more I could write about tests and trials and the things I’ve been learning. Some more serious. Getting things wrong, and the grace to keep trying. James tells me this – when perseverance finishes its work, I’ll be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Not blown by the wind, not doubting, unstable. Mature. Complete. Lacking Nothing. Quite certain I want this. Snowbanks, and snowdays, and crutches, and all.

*James 1:2-8
**Colossians 1:11-12

Escape Room & Other Mysteries

G & K 2011

(I found this throwback on Facebook. 2011 – Grant & Kiana leading worship at Legacy before they “discovered” each other.)

Monday evening I sat in the sanctuary of Meadow Creek Church for Legacy’s annual parent meeting. Likely my last. Twenty-one years with boys at this school, once Meadow Creek, now Legacy Christian. Grant was in preschool when we started here, every year since at least one kid attending. Which is to say – a lot of memories. And a lot of tuition.

Fast forward to Wednesday morning. I sat with Kiana on downstairs carpet, watching Maisy. They’d braved the weather, come to town for a three-day gathering with photographer friends. Originally planned for someone’s cabin up in Silver Bay, the great white north. But wisely relocated to Andover, and the Ruf’s spacious home on Crooked Lake.

Bonus for me, enjoying breakfast with my girls, no MOMs group at church this week, and time to linger. Nonstop conversation with a daughter-in-law, gifted at chatting, and listening, too. I can’t remember what she asks me, how I end up retelling this story, one she’s heard before. Recalling and recounting a journey from classroom to church and how it’s happened. Heart of a teacher, but God’s leading, unexpected, these last ten years. I rewind and remember, classroom to homeschool, substitute teaching, applying for jobs. A pastor at church, heart bent toward education, Disciple U, and I apply for a part-time position. My first day at Constance the call comes from school, an opportunity to teach Bible to middle school students. A dream come true. I tell the pastor, tell my husband, and all of us pray. In the end, feeling certain, the door He opened first is His provision, and so I trust and stay.

I stay at church, but my heart stays tied to a school where boys attend, and God calls me to pray. Pray Legacy. I pray with students, pray at home, pray nearly every Friday out at the property in Ramsey, where they say one day there’ll be a new building. It never happens. One of the mysteries. One of many. I pray, too, for myself. The heart of a teacher, future thinking. I start seminary classes, believing this, too, to be God’s leading. And then, another puzzle. Another perfect job at school, and I interview, knowing it’s three years too soon. Three years later, with seminary finished, I might have been ready. But not really qualified to do it yet.

So I forge ahead, work on my masters, work at church. Continue to pray. Thursday mornings at 6:45 praying with students; Friday mornings at 8am, “Prayer Wall” praying from my chair at home. One whole month Daniel Fasting, not knowing until later, the life of a school hangs in the balance. And He calls me to pray.

And then He calls me to Something Else, too. Unexpected. Interrupting seminary and interrupting life as all of us know it. Two more boys joining our family. Two more boys attending this school. No time to think about being a teacher, it’s all-hands-on-deck for being a mom. Still working at church, now a new position. Family Resources. Books and teaching and me learning more than I ever expected about being a parent.

You were in the sixth grade the year I subbed at school, applying for jobs. Grade seven the year I started working at church. I’m telling Kiana this, telling her this story, as we play on the rug with our little Maisy. And I’m thinking this, too. How this young woman is another unexpected answer to heartfelt prayer.

Just last Sunday Kiana shared her own story in her sermon at church. Her life interrupted – by a brain surgery of all things. Barely out of middle school, and –  I consider our present sufferings not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed… (Romans 8:18). She knew THIS back then, fourteen years old, painting words on a bedroom wall. She says it now to a congregation at Revision Church, social media sharing this God-story all over the world. It’s like an Escape Room, mystery upon mystery, and we have to go through one to prepare for another. This girl has always been wise beyond years.

These mysteries prepare us, and there’s no way of knowing how things will turn out. A substitute teacher takes note of the faith of a sixth-grade student, no thought whatsoever she’ll one day be family. Doors open, and others close, and you think you’ve got one plan, but He’s got another. I’ve never believed in a junior Holy Spirit. Kiana says this, too, and it makes me laugh. No. The Spirit I know baffles. Weaves His mysteries. Invites us to follow, or not.

Monday evening at a parent meeting plans are unveiled for a school expansion. After all these years, the Legacy dream appears to be coming true. In three short months, boy number five will walk the stage to receive his diploma. Another dream I hadn’t expected. And what about next year, the years to follow? I can only imagine, His mysteries, surprises. And we’ll go through one to prepare for another.


The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. John 3:8