And So I Cry…


El Salvador, sometimes known as the “Ireland of Central America.” Also known for being so overrun with violent gangs you cannot go out showing tattoos, body piercings or wearing the numbers 13, 18 or the letter S.

The things I saw today will be seared in my memory for the rest of my life. It happened in a home in San Martin, El Salvador.

To get there, we drove through a narrow dirt alley, parking at the end of two long, tin walls. The entrance to the home was a door-sized opening in the tin a few yards down.

We stepped over the threshold into a dark room. It wasn’t the humidity or the heat that was oppressive, so much as the overwhelming intensity of the situation. Everything in me screamed DESPAIR.

As we entered, immediately to the right were two 55 gallon drums filled with water. All around them were small piles of clothes soaking in small tubs of water on the dirt floor.

A small cookstove stood against the back wall, the top piled with mismatched dented pots. A few plastic dished balanced precariously next to the pots.

A table with a dirty vinyl tablecloth with a faint Spiderman print, worn almost beyond recognition, stood in the center of the room, a few plastic chairs scattered around it. Pieces of the chairs were broken or missing. A small stained mattress stood up along one wall.

As our eyes acclimated to the dark, we saw a small child in a rocking chair. His emaciated arms and legs stood in stark contrast to his distended belly, swollen large from malnutrition. He looked at us with hollow eyes. He was tiny, roughly the size of our three-year-old.

His mom, Ana Luz, quietly introduced him – Kennedy – and said today was his ninth birthday.

And with that, extreme poverty came and slapped me hard in the face.

She told us, through her tears, that he was born missing part of his brain, which explained his erratic arm movements.  Upon learning of his condition when we was born, his father disappeared, running away from the burden of caring for a severely disabled boy, and abandoning his four boys and their mother.

As she spoke, the tiny child started whimpering and making animal-like sounds in the chair. She gave him a bottle of milk, which he drank desperately, emptying it in less than a minute.

As a starving child does.

Shortly after, a young boy came through the door. He was dressed in a white button down shirt, partially untucked, dark blue dress pants, and black shoes, obviously a school uniform.

A slim boy, he carried himself as though he carried a heavy burden and had a look on his face far older than his 12 years.

Ana Luz introduced her fourth son, Diego, with obvious pride. She explained that he attends the Compassion project when he’s able to. (On the days when she can find work he has to stay home to care for his brother.) He plays on the soccer team and the thing he most enjoys at the project is reading the Bible.

Within a few minutes of being home, as his mother talked, Diego began to cry.  And then his crying turned into quiet sobbing.

As he cried, I started to cry.

I cried because there was nothing I could do. Nothing.
I cried from the utter helplessness I felt.
I cried from anger at a world so broken that it had put him in this horrific situation.
I cried from the enormous injustice of the moment.
I cried because I couldn’t take his burden, even just a small part of it, even just for a minute.

Why should such a small, not-yet-grown boy be asked to carry a burden so heavy it would crush most grown men?

A 12-year-old boy. Responsible for caring for his severely handicapped brother. Responsible for calming him when we is crying from hunger and there is nothing to eat. Living in literal darkness, surrounded by filth and oppression.

My heart was completely and utterly broken in those moments.

And five days later, I sit here wondering what in the world to do with all of this.

I feel the immense weight of the things I saw and heard and a burden of responsibility to do something because of it. I cannot go back. I cannot erase my memories or un-see what I saw.

The scene with Ana Luz and Kennedy and Diego replays over and over again in my mind.

So what do I do? What do I do? If I don’t change in some significant way, what is the point of an experience like that? What is God’s purpose in showing me something I can do nothing to change?

All I have is a bunch of questions without answers.

Also, one other thing. I don’t think I’m supposed to despise my own country, but it’s really, really hard to come home and not be repulsed at the affluence and ignorance of people in the US.

I mean, seriously. It’s embarrassing.

When we landed in Miami and I opened Facebook, my feed was filled – literally every post – with almost everyone I know getting all bent out of shape about some video from a dumb-ass the media has decided speaks for every Christian about a Starbucks design decision.

All the while a few hundred miles south a little 12 year old boy struggles to take care of his starving family.

So how about a little perspective, America?

And So I Pray On…

alone-279080_640After my dad died, following three straight months of desperate prayers pleading for his healing, I had a crisis of faith. I felt like I had run full speed into a brick wall.

Prayer seemed like a joke. Seriously. I was left with a bunch of questions and no real answers.

Five years later, I’m still just as lost. I’m still in crisis.

Why didn’t God heal him?
Why does God heal at random?
Why does God say “anything you pray in faith, you shall receive” and then not act like the vending machine he’s prescribed himself as?
Is God even real?
What is the point of prayer?
Does my attitude matter when I pray or is it just the “doing it” that’s important?

Chris and I are off to El Salvador tomorrow.

Everything about me – about my legalistic, rule-follower personality – says I “should” be praying about the trip. I should be asking God to prepare my heart for what he might do. I should pray for our safety. I should ask him to meet me there.

Blah, blah, blah.

So I’m praying. But the truth is, it still feels pointless. I’m only doing it because I’m supposed to. … because that’s what a Christian does.

If I pray simply because I’m “supposed to” does that take away from the prayer? Or affect God’s answer?

If prayer is a “conversation with God,” then mine is completely one-sided conversation. I’m a petulant, needy child, taking God’s love for me for granted, and continually asking things from him.

But then my Christian-trained brain interrupts me and says Beckyyou’re supposed to be like a child.

So I’m stuck. Either I pray because I’m supposed to. Or I don’t pray because it feels pointless. So I feel guilty.

And then there’s the another issue.

My kids.

How in the world do I teach them to believe in the power of prayer when I have a hard time believing it myself? They’re smart … they’ll see right through the flimsiness of my prayers. They’ll see that it’s all words and no substance.

And yet, despite all my questions and confusion, I go on praying. I go on saying empty words and hoping, somehow, that they mean something to God.

Because I don’t know what else to do.

Letting Go

IMG_0615My daughter starts kindergarten next week.

I never thought I’d be the one to cry when my kids went to school. (I didn’t even cry at our wedding.) But the other night, I couldn’t stop crying about it.

She’s young. She won’t even turn five until three weeks after school starts.

Several well-meaning people have advised me not to “rush things.” They’ve told me about how their child started early and how it was too much for them. They’ve mentioned how it means she’ll be a 12-year-old with 14-year-old boys and how she’ll be the last in her class to get her driver’s license and how she’ll go through puberty later than her peers and how she’ll be just 17 when she graduates.

Even though my husband and I both believe this is the right decision, and she is beyond excited about starting kindergarten, and despite the fact that I really wish this weren’t true about myself, other people’s opinions hold a great deal of sway with me.

So I’m afraid.

I’m afraid of letting go. I’m afraid of letting my baby girl, who has spent all five years of her life being shaped and influenced by me, my husband and a circle of carefully chosen and trusted people, out into the big, bad world.

I found myself crying for the unknown. I was mourning the loss of innocence that inevitably comes with growing up. I was crying because I can’t protect her from pain that she will surely experience in a broken world. I was trying to hold on to control.

But control is only an illusion anyway. Here’s the truth. (And this blows my mind.)

Five years ago God trusted me – impulsive, insecure, inexperienced, broken – to take care of his daughter. And now I’m struggling with trusting Him – the creator of the universe, the author of all life, love itself – to take care of her.

What is wrong with me?

I’ve heard that raising kids is a lifelong lesson in letting go. So I might as well get on board. Hopefully it will get easier the more I do it.

I’m not sure there’s a mom that exists that feels completely ready to let go when the time comes. I imagine God might have felt something similar when he was letting Jesus go into this world.

But He did, thank goodness. And I will too.

I’ve really connected with Psalm 121 lately. I speak it over my daughter each night.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

Say Yes to the Mess

weddingYou know what nobody tells you about marriage?

How painful it is.

I think one of the big reasons there are so many broken marriages – especially among Christians – is that they go into it under an illusion of what “hard” will look like.

I was 31 when I got married. I wasn’t a young bride, naive to what adult life and marriage would hold.

I spent many years watching friends get married and some get divorced. I knew it would be hard – the hardest thing I’ve ever done – but I had NO IDEA what my “hard” would actually be like.

What it would actually feel like. How incredibly painful it would be.

I realize this is not at all romantic, but I think pastors should start talking about the hard during the wedding ceremony.

“This person you’re standing with here today is going to hurt you worse than anyone else in your life. Are you ready for that? Marriage will bring out everything. All the shit you thought you buried? (And stuff you’re not even aware that you buried?) It will come out. And it will be ugly. You will cry more than you ever have before. Is that something you want to say ‘yes’ to?”

The problem, I think, is that people don’t realize what their “hard” will actually feel like and so when they’re in the midst of it, they’re unprepared. They feel gypped. They feel like they got something they didn’t sign up for.

And so all too often, when the hardest hard comes, they give up.

Anna Duggar.
What if someone had told her what her “hard” would look like?

Or Gayle Haggard.
You think she knew what kind of “hard” she was signing up for?

What about Jason Tippetts?
Would his “hard” be something he chose to say yes to?

Single people, let me tell you something. When you get married, the hard will be harder than you ever imagined.
And married people? If you’re not in the hard yet, you can be sure it’s coming.

But here’s the thing.

I believe that if your marriage can make it through the hardest hard, you will find a beauty that you’d never, ever have without it. You will experience a growth that is impossible without the pain.

And THIS is what marriage is about. This is the whole point. It is SO worth fighting for.

In his book, Sacred Marriage: Celebrating Marriage as a Spiritual Discipline, Gary Thomas says “What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?”

YES. I believe this with everything in me. THIS is what I’m saying yes to. I desperately want holy.

And I suspect I’ll stumble upon happiness along with way.

The Battle for “Us”

Chris and I have been married for five and a half years.

Here we are in Boulder, CO.

Here we are celebrating our anniversary in Boulder, CO.

Recently (the past few weeks) I’ve had this feeling that we are under attack. There is a FrankPeretti-style spiritual battle raging for our marriage and my eyes are being opened to it. And as they are, I’m getting pissed. The dumbass devil thinks I’m going to sit back and let him have my marriage. He’s WRONG.

The older I get, the more I realize how timing is never a coincidence. Take yesterday, for example. Yesterday the battle got real. See, we were scheduled to meet with our Marriage Coaches that night. (Yes … that’s a thing.) We were scheduled to do something proactive to invest in our marriage. Apparently someone didn’t want this to happen. And so this is how yesterday went down.

Chris and I had a rough day. (Sadly not uncommon.) Started out the day with a fight. Neither of us felt well, physically, mentally or emotionally. Couldn’t get on the same page about, well, anything really. All day I felt frustrated that we hadn’t connected. Chris had a particularly bad day at work. He sent me a text on his way home to warn me that he was not in a good place. So when he came through the door, I knew what I should do. But instead, I was quick to go to self-focus and self-pity. Definitely not what he needed.

After a few tense exchanges, I left for the gym in tears. When I finished my class, I didn’t want to go home, so I stopped by the grocery store.

There I was standing in the checkout line at Sprouts. Staring me in the face, right at eye level, was the latest issue of Men’s Fitness. On the cover was a black and white photo of a well-known celebrity (one I’m kind of partial to), doing what I can only describe as “the sexy pose.” Thumbs hooked in worn jeans. Black tank top, accentuating tattooed-covered arms. A few days worth of stubble. Smoldering eyes. A “come hither” look.

And for the first time in my married life, I was tempted to let my thoughts linger on a man other than my husband. (Okay let’s just call it like it is … lust.) The realization simultaneously shocked me and intrigued me.

But here’s the part that woke me up.

As I was looking at the magazine, I (so clearly it could have been audible) heard this voice whispering to me “You should buy that magazine. Chris doesn’t have to know – you have your own fun money. He doesn’t check that debit card. You deserve this, especially after the day you’ve had. Just splurge this once.”

You guys, that voice did NOT come from me.

And I almost did. But then the checker asked if I was all set and I said yes and completed my purchase. No magazine.

But the enemy wasn’t done with me.

As I walked out of the store, I saw another man about my age standing at the deli counter. Tall. Very good looking. We made eye contact. We smiled. And I heard the voice again. “What do you think he’s like to be married to? I bet he wouldn’t treat you the way your husband does. Maybe you need some deli meat.”

I am not making this up.

If only I heard God’s voice as clearly as I heard the devil’s voice.

Married people, we have an enemy who wants desperately to destroy our marriages.

Look around. Marriages are falling apart all over the place.

The arsenal of the enemy is incredibly diverse: fear, rage, depression, anxiety, lust, selfishness, control, insecurity, jealousy, comparison, apathy, laziness.

We have to fight. 


We cannot sit back and just hope our marriages survive. We have to actually engage in battle. In fact, I am convinced that one of his most effective tactics is to make people forget about the battle.

BUT IT’S REAL. Here’s how I know it’s real.

Because the more “stuff” that Chris and I do to fight for our marriage – counseling, small groups, mentors, prayer, conferences, books – the more blatantly the enemy attacks us. (I mean, seriously? Deli meat?)

It’s like we step up our game, and so does the destroyer of all good things. He is feeling threatened and so he fights harder and more desperately.

I will keep fighting for my marriage. No matter how bloody the battle gets.

Who’s with me?

I wrote this post not to share our junk. No one wants to read our junk. I wrote it because I thought someone could relate and that maybe my experience – my pain and struggles – can help someone else in the midst of their junk.

So … I Think I Have a Gift

KauaiMy whole life I’ve wondered what my gifts are. What is it that I – Becky – am uniquely good at? I’ve never had an answer to this.

In Christian circles (where I’ve lived almost exclusively) the term “spiritual gifts” and “gifts of the spirit” are used frequently. The idea, I think, is that after God was no longer around physically in the person of Jesus, he sent us his Spirit and would give people abilities to connect with this Spirit through certain gifts.

The Bible has a few lists of these spiritual gifts including words like healing, prayer, prophecy, and speaking in tongues. Frankly, whenever I read these lists I feel forgotten – like God passed over me when he was doling out gifts.

I’ve never fit into one of those lists.

When I think about what I’m good at, it’s not really the “spiritual” stuff. Like I’m pretty good at word games like Taboo and Outburst. I also seem to do pretty well at exaggeration and hyperbole. When I tell stories, details don’t matter to me nearly as much as conveying the overall point and feeling of the story. (This particular “gift” happens to drive my literal-minded husband crazy.) I also am good at forgetting things. Of course this is both a blessing and a curse.

But these things seem silly and unimportant, spiritually speaking.

A new thought crossed my mind this morning, though, that perhaps in all my years of wondering whether I have a gift, I’ve overlooked something. It’s something that comes quite naturally to me and I’ve never considered until this morning that it might actually be a gift. And the thought is blowing my mind.


Is it possible I have the gift of transparency? Really, the idea of transparency being a gift seems preposterous. And it is so counter cultural to the world I was raised in.

Church – and the Christian life in general – has this tendency to present a front. And as I recently realized, I have gotten very, very good at faking it. Throughout my life, I have learned to fit into this Christian culture of false authenticity. I can outwardly portray brokenness and vulnerability with the best of them while inwardly feeling disconnected and disappointed and forgotten. I’ve tried for years to fit the mold of what I thought a Christian was supposed to look like.

But when I think about the things I’ve shared that have resonated most with people, they are the ones where I share my junk. My questions. My doubts. My fears. The most “unspiritual” posts, if you will. When I’m open about my struggles, people get that. They connect with it.

And I seem to have the weird ability to put this mess into words.

We go to a church which is unique in its wholehearted embracing of the messiness of Christianity. Our leaders always speak from a place of vulnerability, which makes it easy to listen to them them, trust them and learn from them. I’ve been in my job at that church for a year now, and I can’t help but think that maybe this job and this church at this time in my life has a specific role to play in my journey to discovering my life’s purpose.

Because the fact is, I’m not just contemplating a gift, but a purpose. In my discovering a gift, I can’t help but wonder at the idea that my life has a purpose – an unavoidable calling to use this gift. Why else would I have it? I wasn’t created with a gift to have it mean nothing. It’s there for a purpose.

I’m created for this.

So, you, my blog readers, are a crucial part of this journey. For it is here on this blog that I am beginning to explore the idea of a gift of transparency and how that might play out in my life’s purpose.

You are my sounding board. Your feedback is invaluable. Your encouragement gives me the courage to keep exploring the unknown.

So thank you for your part in my journey.

7 Goals for the New Year

I love January 1st. There’s something so hopeful and encouraging about a new year. A fresh start. A clean slate. Every year I think Maybe this year will be the year I can actually make the changes I’ve been trying to make. I had that thought this morning.

Stasi Eldredge has been very influential to me over the past few months. Her books, her Facebook posts, her ministry. I respect her. A lot.

Today she posted a list of seven questions to reflect on for the upcoming year. I thought they were quite thought provoking, so here are my thoughts.

1. What is a destination I would like to visit?
Italy, with my Italian husband. This has been a dream of mine since I met him and heard him talk about his many trips there. I want to fall in love with the country and culture he loves. I want to know the heritage of our kids. (At least 50% of them.) Amazingly, this trip is actually on the calendar! We have some good friends who moved to Aviano a couple years ago and we’ve been talking about this trip since they moved. October = Italy 2015, baby!

2.What is something new I would like to try?
Sewing. On a machine. I’m not sure yet what I’ll make or who’s machine I’ll borrow, but in the vein of all my interest in DIY stuff, this is a really handy skill to have and I want to learn. I suspect in order to be successful at sewing, I’ll have to learn to be a perfectionist. Uh oh.

3. What do I want to spend more time doing?
Playing the piano. We have a beautiful piano purchased a few years ago and only played a few times since. I love playing and I want to do it more this year.

4. What is a habit I am going to break?
Second guessing people when they tell me something. I know this is kind of vague, but I am obsessive about what other people truly think. My husband reminds me all the time that I should take people at their word. I think he’s right.

5. What do I want to do/be better at?
Listening. To God. To my husband. To my kids. To my mom. To my siblings. To my friends. To my coworkers. I’m honestly pretty bad at this and it’s something I know God wants me to focus on this year. So I’ll try.

6. What would I like to work harder at?
Keeping a tidy house. This is a big area of weakness for me. I struggle to put things away when I’m done with them, and things tend to pile up. I don’t clean the bathrooms or floors as much as I should. And I’m teaching my bad habits to my kids. I want this to change.

7. What is a skill I’d like to learn or improve upon?
I want to learn Italian. I know just a few words, but we own the Rosetta Stone, so I really I have no excuse. And now I have a deadline. (See #1.) Andiamo!

So now I’ve put my year’s goals in writing. They’re official. Maybe at the end of the year I can write a follow up post to see how I’ve done. Wish me luck!

What are your goals for 2015?

2014: The Year I Quit Faking It

So about this time one year ago I wrote a post summing up my year. It was a look at the Giovagnoni family, raw and unfiltered. That unconventional approach to a Christmas letter seemed to resonate with some people, so here we go again.

First things first. Big things in 2014 …

Cara started ballet.


We went to DC for the 4th of July.

Photo Jul 04, 8 03 29 PM

We celebrated Mom’s 65th birthday reunion-style.


Chris and I took a 5th anniversary trip to Kauai.


Tyce started pre-preschool.


There you go. If you want the pretty stuff, you should stop reading now.

Because here’s the stuff that never makes it in the Christmas letter.

Both dogs are dying – one has a brain tumor and one has a tumor on her liver. So we’ve basically become a hospice for our dogs. I spend my time bouncing back and forth between wishing it would end quickly and dreading the end.

I started seeing a counselor which has been simultaneously helpful, incredibly eye-opening and really, really difficult. The more I learn about myself, the more I see how much I need to grow.

We are still dealing on a daily basis with depression, rage, stress, anxiety, fear, grief and lots of hurt and pain.

If I were writing the Christmas letter, I’d end it with something like “Through everything, God has been faithful and He’s the reason we celebrate this Christmas.” But to be honest, God’s presence hasn’t really been very real to me this year. And this year I’ve come to realize that one of my biggest problems with God is that He never shows up when I think he’s “supposed” to.

Like when I was 8 and said “THE” prayer and then waited for God to show up and change my life. And nothing changed. And I felt wholly ignored by God.

And when I was 15, at our youth group Fall Retreat at Frontier Ranch, and everyone seemed to be having this super spiritual moment, crying at the altar on their knees, surrendering the entirety of their decade and a half of life, and I felt distant and detached. So I mastered the art of faking it. Fake tears. Fake surrender. Fake intimacy with God.

And then there was college, where I continued to grow in my fake spiritual walk. But all the time inside I felt a deep and abiding disappointment with God. I felt let down that those four years weren’t the “best time of my life.” That I hadn’t met the man I’d marry as I’d always assumed I would. (Why else choose a Christian college, right?)

After college I moved home, got a job, moved out on my own, became an accomplished single woman with a good career and a busy social life. And I was happy. Mostly. But deep down I was still disappointed by God.

It wasn’t until 2008 and a man named Chris walked into my life, turned my world upside down, and started deconstructing this happy little fake life I’d created for myself, that I began to realize something big was missing. I saw in Chris a man walking with God that was nothing like I’d ever seen before. He wasn’t the typical Christian I’d always known, saying Christian-y things like “Yes, life is hard, but God is good.” He said stuff like “I’m furiously angry with God. I feel like He’s left me to figure this life out on my own. But He’s strong enough to handle my anger and I know He loves me anyway.”

That’s the thing about Chris. He never, ever fakes it. So different than me. I’m not surprised that God chose to use a man like this to open my eyes to the cardboard faith I’d constructed. To help me see that all along I’ve been faking this heart connection with God because it’s what I thought I was supposed to do.

That takes me to today, December 23, 2014.

35 years of thinking faith in God was one thing. A year of having that false front dismantled and revealed for what it actually is – me pretending to know God.

Well I have an announcement to make. I’m done pretending.

I don’t have any idea what’s going to be built in it’s place, but it will be real. It will be solid. It will be strong. I’m sick of pretending. I want to know what actually knowing God is like.

So bring it on, 2015. They say growth comes from pain, so if that’s true, then this next year is bound to be one for the books.

The Meaning of Christmas in 25 Seconds

There’s no way I could write a post that better shares the true meaning of Christmas. Better you should watch the video below.

Pay special attention to 3:55 to 4:20.

“A Hallelujah Christmas” by Cloverton.

I’ve heard about this baby boy
Who’s come to earth to bring us joy
And I just want to sing this song to you
It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
With every breath I’m singing Hallelujah

A couple came to Bethlehem
Expecting child, they searched the inn
To find a place for You were coming soon
There was no room for them to stay
So in a manger filled with hay
God’s only Son was born, oh Hallelujah

The shepherds left their flocks by night
To see this baby wrapped in light
A host of angels led them all to You
It was just as the angels said
You’ll find Him in a manger bed
Immanuel and Savior, Hallelujah

A star shown bright up in the east
To Bethlehem, the wisemen three
Came many miles and journeyed long for You
And to the place at which You were
Their frankincense and gold and myrrh
They gave to You and cried out Hallelujah

I know You came to rescue me
This baby boy would grow to be
A man and one day die for me and you
My sins would drive the nails in You
That rugged cross was my cross, too
Still every breath You drew was Hallelujah