Friday, December 31, 2010

“For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.” Psalm 48:14

It’s that time of the year. When people make their lists of resolutions, commit to a healthier lifestyle and many, join the gym. You may think I’m crazy, but I actually really love working out. I was a fitness instructor through college and the bug just stayed with me. There are a lot of reasons why I love it, but being strong and healthy are my top two.

As I’ve gotten older and busier with life, exercise has become harder and harder to fit in. There are many nights when I’m trying to exercise at 9:30, after the kids have gone to bed. That, my friend, is not an easy time to be sweating it out with any form of gusto. Because of that, I’ve let myself cheat, try to take short-cuts and even attempted to use supplements that were later deemed unsafe – all in an attempt to maintain my fitness level without the full dedication I’ve had in the past. Over the years, I’ve tried just about every “fad” there was. Six-minutes for a full workout (seriously?) or express cardio. You’ve seen the commercials. What I’ve learned is that the only true and trusted way of being fit, at least for me, is a dedication to the basics. Simple weight training, good old fashioned cardiovascular exercise and smart food choices. There really are no short cuts.

Don’t we approach our spirituality that way sometimes? I know I have. I have found myself caught up in a certain teacher’s work, or felt that if I just read “that” book, some key would unlock and I’d “get it.” What I’ve learned is that I’ve made those books or teachers an idol to some degree, giving them much more power and authority than I ever should. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think there is a lot to be said for insightful teaching and practical application. It’s just that none of that should ever take precedence over the one place where it’s all there – The Bible. No short cuts. I never want to replace the teaching and insight gained from time in The Word with a book or message – those things are designed to enhance, not take the place of, the ultimate teaching source. For me, it can be more challenging to glean application from the Bible, but when I do, it is much more powerful.

So, as 2010 draws to a close and I look ahead to 2011, I’m looking forward to really digging more into my Bible to see what God has to say to me this year. I’m recommitting myself to that dedication to the basics. Reading my Bible, praying, journaling and just listening. Of course, there will still be Bible studies and books and all, but those will be in their proper place. Just like exercise and healthy living habits, there are no short cuts. As a result, I think 2011 could be the best year yet. Anyone with me?

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, LORD.” Psalm 89:15

Every morning I take three of our dogs outside. They love it. They run, play, wrestle and chase until I spoil it by putting one of them, Macy, in the indoor/outdoor kennel. That sounds much easier than it typically is most days. She likes to run, so sometimes, getting her in takes 10-15 minutes. Usually, that’s when it is freezing cold and this warm-blooded wimp can get rather antsy during the process.


The mornings are brilliant when the sky is lit up with star after star. And, some days, the only star that shines through is the morning star. I’ve learned to look for that every day immediately when I walk outside. It’s like a smile from my Heavenly Father that says, “good morning.” I’m learning to seek those moments. Looking for Him in the surroundings because He is there and wants me to know it. A twinkle of sunlight. A beam of reflection from the moon. The crisp contrast of a crystal clear blue sky against the snow-covered mountains. A sunrise or sunset that takes my breath away and begs me to soak it in. Those are moments when I have a small idea of just how infinitely big God really is. That in the minute chaos of every day, He’s right there with a touch, a feeling, guidance. I just need to be open to it, seek it and follow it.

The time in the mornings with the dogs can feel chaotic and stressed if I let it. If I keep my eyes fixed on them, the ground and the smallness of the task at hand, I can lose sight of the fact that the Maker of the Universe is right there with me. But, if I look up, it all changes. The other morning, I walked out with the dogs, as usual. As they were running and playing and I looked out and saw the morning star. It calmed me as I thought, “good morning, Lord.” Just then, I saw a shooting star! How amazing is that? A direct answer and reassurance that yes, I AM is with me – in the small and large stuff of life.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

“Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

I have to admit, I had gotten caught up in it. You know, the hustle and bustle and craziness that can overcome a person at this time of year. For lots of reasons, I was not prepared ahead of time and Christmas seemed to sneak up on me. All of a sudden, it was December and I was not ready.

I felt stressed. I felt pressure to “get it all done.” In that state, I slipped away from focusing. I was talking a good game – reminding my kids that Christmas is all about Jesus, but on the outside looking in at me, you would never have known because I was still stressing about wrapping presents, addressing Christmas cards and mailing boxes, not to mention decorating the house.

In the midst of all this bustle, we heard an announcement at church that there was a Christmas concert. I thought, there’s no way we can cram one more thing into the schedule. But, I felt a nudge in my spirit – make the time.

Last night, we hurried through dinner and jumped in the car to go. The kids were arguing and I am fighting a cold – not the best attitudes going in. But that is where God fills us up when we need it most. Almost immediately, I relaxed. Seeing our wonderful church family calmed me down. Then, the music started. Everything that I had been stressing over began to fall away as we turned our full attention to the true meaning of Christmas.

Oh, how I needed that! As the night went on, there were tears, laughter and pure joy. I felt refreshed and refocused. Don’t you love how God does that? In the middle of all the stress, He reminded me that the true gift of His one and only Son is the only thing I need to be thinking about this time of year. And there is no packaging, mailing or decorating necessary. He is perfect as is.

As I unwrap that thought more, I remember that there is no gift that could be more perfect. Amid all the seasonal stresses are the realities of everyday life. Things that can easily threaten our joy and hope, if we are not careful. But, focusing on Jesus and how He, the only human who ever CHOSE to be born, did so in order to bear the burden of MY sins so that I may have life everlasting with Him, takes all those life issues and puts them in their proper perspective.

Every year, my kids make a gift for their grandparents. We had been talking about what to do this year when we watched a DVD focused on Christmas and the true gift of Jesus. The title was “The Twelve Words of Christmas,” by Louie Giglio. The picture was so real and vivid that we knew what this year’s gift was going to be, a painting of that first Christmas. I may have had myself stressed out over all the non-essentials of the holiday season, but the kids were able to create the true meaning in one, simple image. I pray we never lose sight of it.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:7

A few weeks ago, a dear friend received very grave news that her brother was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of cancer. It was shocking and sad. When we were told of the news, I immediately began searching Scriptures. Several came to mind, but I wanted to offer them specifically out of the Bible in prayer for her.

I was also seeking some understanding of my own. This kind of news can rock the very foundations of faith. It is not for me to understand, but to have faith and believe in what I know to be true. That God is faithful and He has a plan for His glory.

After praying and passing along some of the relevant verses, I tucked it away. I prayed for them and asked Jesus to comfort them.

Last week, we were preparing a fast dinner (typical in our house) as we were all coming and going and hungry. In the middle of it all, my mom called from Florida, 2000 miles away. Hurriedly, I answered. Our conversation stopped me cold. She found a mass and was having a mammogram the next day. She was asking me about the biopsy I had gone through nearly two years ago. We talked and I hoped to assure her that she’d be fine, it would be nothing. She wasn’t. She had to have a biopsy.

My flesh wanted to rebel and get angry at even the possibility of her having cancer. My flesh reacted like a 2-year-old whose toy is being taken away. No God, please, not this, not now. But, my heart stepped in and a voice whispered to seek Him. Seek the same One I had sought when the news was someone else’s. When I was trying to comfort and understand from a distance. So I did. And I prayed for peace and understanding, whatever the results showed. Oh yes, I cried. I cried a lot over the weekend. The idea of losing my mom scares the pants off me. She’s precious and sweet and a terrific Grandma. And, she makes me crazy and sometimes frustrated and happy all at once. And, so often, I see so much of her in me. The days of waiting were endless.

Today, the doctor’s confirmed that she has breast cancer. News we all feared, but somehow, were prepared for. And, strangely, at some level of peace with. When I drove in to work this morning, I was listening to a song by Chris Tomlin called “I lift my hands.” I didn’t know at the time that we’d find out about Mom, but as I sang those words, I knew God was holding us.
I lift my hands to believe again
You are my refuge, you are my strength
As I pour out my heart, these things I remember
You are faithful God forever

Thankfully, Mom’s prognosis is good. Her cancer was caught very early and she shouldn’t need chemo to beat it. We are praising God for that. I am praising Him for answering the one small whispered prayer I begged Him for during the waiting. More time, Lord, please. More time. He is gracious and merciful and in all things, to be glorified.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Psalm 18:2

I had physical a few weeks ago. Some things were going on that gave me reason to be aware of my health and I felt it was wise to have a check-up. Honestly, I was almost hoping there would be some medical reason for the heart racing and palpitations I had been experiencing recently. I’ve definitely been under some additional stress in the past few months and I thought maybe that could be the cause of the symptoms.

In the evaluation, all my vitals were good and blood work was all normal. No cause for alarm. So then, he started asking questions about my lifestyle and habits. We boiled it down to caffeine and the large amount of it that I had been consuming. I’m embarrassed to say exactly how much. Let’s just say, I could keep Starbucks Coffee and Tetley Tea in business with my consumption alone. I could tell he was a little shocked when we totaled up my daily coffee and iced tea intake. I have to admit, even I was a little surprised when I had to add it all up.

So, there was no medical condition. I was addicted to caffeine. Having to give it up truly scared me. When I left the doctor’s office, I was nearly in tears. I rarely get six hours of sleep a night, work full time and am a wife and mom, so life is a pretty big challenge sometimes. Before I left the doctor’s office parking lot, I prayed. Lord, I cannot do this alone. This is an addiction and an issue that I obviously need your help with if I am going to succeed. I need supernatural strength for this one.

You may think I’m joking, but I am completely serious. I have been a caffeine junkie since my freshman year of college – many, many years ago. Just like with other addictive behaviors, I’ve told myself I could control it if I wanted to. I was 100% lying to myself and to God. I can’t control it, and I had gotten myself to the point that it had become a wedge between God and me – I was not willing to let Him have this part of me.

Maybe because I’ve been embarrassed about it – I pray and ask God to take all of me and my life and use it for His glory, and yet here I was with this bondage that I wasn’t willing to give up.

Yet, after I prayed, I did feel a peace. I bought decaf coffee and tea. I cut way back on the morning coffee pot. For days, I nursed the headache that comes with withdrawal from craving the amount of caffeine I was consuming. After about five days, the headache let up and I honestly didn’t feel that bad. Throughout that week, I was praying and asking for the supernatural discipline to stick with it until the addiction was broken. There is no way I could have done it by myself. God was holding my hand the whole time. When I looked for Scriptures to help keep focused, reading Psalm 18:2 gave me comfort and courage. The Lord is my rock and fortress. With Him, nothing is impossible. That is a truth I can believe fully in, cling to and live my life on. You can, too.

You may not have an addiction that you need His help to overcome, but perhaps there is an area of your life where you are in bondage and don’t even know it. I urge you to pray. Pray for Him to reveal to you those areas that are keeping you from the fullness of living life wholly in Him. If there are areas, He will reveal them and if you commit to Him, he will get you through it.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

I was looking up Scriptures on the subject of thankfulness. When I stop and think about all the many blessings I have, I can’t help but be a little overwhelmed. God is so very good.

I have been taking some time to pause this week and really think about the blessings He has bestowed upon my family and me. It brings me to tears and to my knees. Our lives are so richly blessed. We are in an amazing church family who have welcomed us, supported us and encouraged our faith walk. We have been given many opportunities to both share our faith and grow it as well. We are learning things as a family that are drawing us closer to one another and closer to God.

That’s not to say it’s been an easy road this year. It really hasn’t. We’ve faced financial challenges, job security issues, some serious health problems and even the general busyness of life that, at times, threatens to split us apart just in order to cope with it all.

But, through those challenges, I’m learning more and more to give thanks in all circumstances because every time we do, we see God take what we think is a potential disaster and work it for good. Is it comfortable? Absolutely not. Would I take any other option in the moment? Absolutely yes. But, I’m learning to pause, and separate myself from the circumstance and choose to have a thankful heart because I can trust that He is with me and He does have a plan for me that is for His glory. That can get us through some of the most trying situations.

I think that today I am living closer to Him in obedience than I was even a few years ago. And, I still have a ways to go. But, even so, the steps in obedience that I know I have taken have been beautifully rewarded over and over. Now, that’s definitely not the motivation to obey. That is a sheer blessing from our Lord because He is pleased with the step in faith. I’ve seen it so much this year. Things haven’t always worked out like I thought they might. In fact, this is the case more often than not. But, what ends up happening when my will is submitted, yields to a greater purpose from Him that I could have never imagined.

Today, as I rejoice, pray and give thanks many things come to mind. He has given me a beautiful, loving and supportive family. God has given me a platform to bring Him glory and for that, I am so, so grateful. He has directed people to read these words and have their lives impacted by them. He has opened doors I would never have thought to knock on. He has grown the seeds planted into a small, but growing ministry, in His time. He has surrounded me with a group of friends and fellow believers, who encourage, strengthen, challenge and teach me daily. He has nurtured the faith of my family and brought us closer to Him. I could go on and on.

He has blessed me with YOU, and for that, I cannot begin to express my gratitude. I pray that you continue to see the touches of His presence in your life this Thanksgiving and always. Of course, the most important blessing of all is the gift of salvation that is freely given. For that, I am eternally grateful and ever humbled by.

How has He blessed you? Please share your thoughts!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” Matthew 25:40

Have you ever had an encounter with Jesus? I mean an interaction so powerful you do not know what hit you afterward? It happened to me this weekend and I pray I never forget the feeling. Incredible.

Let me back up and say that a few weeks ago, my kids and I were at a concert and author/pastor Max Lucado was speaking. He asked us to raise our hands as we prayed for children in desperate need of basic things we take for granted like water, food, clothing, shelter and education. As we all closed our eyes and prayed, something happened to my daughter. After the prayer, she asked me if I felt it. “Felt what,” I asked? “Felt God,” she replied. She went on to tell me that when she closed her eyes and lifted her hand, she felt a warmth and the sensation of her hand being held. She said she knew it was God. We left that night and decided we needed a family meeting with Daddy to talk about sponsoring a child. It was a powerful moment for her and we need to respect that.

So this past weekend, I got the opportunity to know what she experienced that night. I was headed to a gymnastics meet and inadvertently took the wrong exit off the highway. As I exited, there he was. An out-of-work man asking for help on the side of the road. I felt a deep tug on my heart. As I reached over and pulled some money out of my wallet, the light turned. I had to be quick. I rolled down the window and slowed towards him. When his hand touched mine to take the money, our eyes met. That’s when it hit – a powerful surge of energy and emotion straight into my heart. I wasn’t looking at a homeless man, I was looking into the face of my savior. As I drove off, I was hit with a wave of tears. It was overwhelming and amazing at the same time.

This verse came to mind almost immediately. I knew in my heart that it was in fact Jesus I had encountered. I know that may not be the case every time, but I do know that there are those times when I definitely feel the tug of the Holy Spirit on my heart and how I respond is important. Sadly, I don’t always do what Jesus commanded. But, knowing how I felt this weekend just might make me a little more attuned to know when I should.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Last night, we had quite a mess to clean up. When the weather gets colder, mice think my house is a better option than outside, so the critters try and get in out of the cold. Well, our weather turned and a couple mice have found their way in. We’ve been battling with all our weapons and last night, my husband thought he sniffed that unmistakable smell of a dead mouse. As we tried to locate the critter, he moved the refrigerator and eww! No dead mouse, but plenty of messy evidence. Gag. We spent the next 30 minutes cleaning, disinfecting and emptying the trash bag.

On the surface, my house is pretty clean. Cluttered, yes. Steve and I both work full-time and we have two elementary aged children, so clutter is inevitable. But, when we have guests, it looks pretty good. Clean, generally picked up. On the surface, we look pretty good.

Which got me thinking.

How does that analogy resonate with my spirit? Oh, sure. On the surface, I can be the person I want to be. I appear to have it all together. My kids are smart, good students who generally behave well. My husband and I have a good marriage. I have a challenging job with incredible co-workers. I have wonderful friends who encourage and love me. Spiritually, I am growing. My ministry is starting to grow little roots and stems. But boy, sometimes, just below the surface – well, let’s just say it isn’t all pretty.

I wrestle. I wrestle with doubts, fears, insecurities, pride – you name it. Do you? And I fight the urge to try and clean it all up with a neat and tidy bow of perfection so that others won’t think different if they knew what a mess I can be. I can blow up at the kids for the silliest thing. I can get my feelings hurt when Steve says something “the wrong way.” I can feel incredibly insecure when I’m in certain work situations. I can convince myself that accomplishments are mine and not God’s. Oh yes, I can make a big mess just below the surface that sometimes shows its ugly face above the water.

But go deeper. Into my heart. That’s where Jesus lives. And for every “surface issue,” he’s got an answer and a cure. Him. I need to let go and let him. He isn’t requiring me to fix it or clean it up for Him. In fact, he wants to use me in my brokenness. When I admit that I am a broken sinner who cannot make it without Him, He takes that brokenness and repentance and covers it in mercy and forgiveness. And somehow, he can clean up that mess so that it can be used to bring Him glory. I have seen Him do things in my life that leave me speechless. It can only be of Him.

Yes, I am a mess. But, I am not unfixable. And every day, with Jesus, I am making progress. How about you?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor...

...He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…” Isaiah 61:1

What is God working on in you? Several times in the past couple of weeks, I have woken up in the morning with the words to a song titled, “King of Heaven (Isaiah 61)” by the Charlie Hall Band in my head. For me, it paints a tremendous picture of compassion and love flowing freely from God down to us and us back up to our Heavenly Father.

Oh, Oh, King of heaven come down

We’ll sing the gospel to the poor
We’ll go to comfort those who mourn
You’ll put together what’s been torn
King of Heaven

We come together in the wave of God
We stand together in Your great compassion
Pouring out our hearts and lives
Fill us up with an expectation

We’ll sing the news of all Your grace
We’ll help the broken-hearted praise
You’ll put Your glory on display
King of Heaven

You help the broken cities rise
Out of the wreckage You’ll bring life

Such power in those words. There’s grace, comfort, redemption, healing and joy for each of us. Our Bible study group recently began the study, “Breaking Free” by Beth Moore. It is based on the book of Isaiah. We’re only a couple weeks into the study, but oh man. I’m realizing more and more how desperately in need of grace and healing I am.

In a powerful video session, we were challenged to evaluate those areas in our own lives where we need to let go and let God. Let Him heal, let Him change, let Him recover the brokenness of our past mistakes and bind them up to use for His good purpose. As I heard the challenge and the examples that followed, I felt a wave come over me. It’s hard to describe it, but I can say that it left me shaking and full of goose bumps as my heart raced. God was clearly showing me some areas where He knows I need to release my brokenness to Him. Areas that repeatedly break me down because I haven’t allowed Him to take it from me and let healing begin.

I was so moved that I had to pull off the road and cry out in prayer before I could even focus to drive home that night. It is very clear that my tendencies for a harsh tongue, self-defeating attitude and judgment need to be dealt with. There’s no more ignoring it. I’ve vowed to journal specifically about these areas He has pointed out to me. My prayer is that with prayer and application, this study of His Word will continue to transform me from what was into what will be.

So, what is He working on in you? What are the areas of brokenness that need to be bound up and healed in your life? I challenge you to pray for revelation and His healing. He will rescue you.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Guest post from my daughter, Abby

My daughter was in the car with me yesterday and was very busy writing in her journal. When I asked her what she was working on, she told me she was writing a story about Jesus. She read these to me and asked if I'd ever put it on my website. "Of course," I said. I hope you can read them, she said there is an introduction and two chapters. These are precious to me. I pray she continues to grow in her relationship with Jesus and that she wants to keep telling the world about how much He loves us! Enjoy and be blessed.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13.

Recently, I heard a message where the speaker challenged us to pay attention when God interrupts our schedule. I don’t know about you, but my typical response when things veer off course for me is a bit of angst. I’m pretty adaptable, but I rarely have a time cushion for interruptions, so they tend to throw me a little. So, this message rattled me and I’ve been praying that when God interrupts my schedule, I will have a heart that’s tuned in so I can learn what He’s working on in the situation.

So, when I was severely interrupted yesterday, I thought, “okay Lord, this must be big stuff.” You see, I was supposed to fly to California on a business trip. I arrived in plenty of time (2 hours ahead) and made my way into the first of the four garages to find a parking space. And I circled. And circled. And went to another garage. Then another. After about 30 minutes, I began to pray out loud. I always find a spot. After an hour, I felt a twinge of panic. I was now pushing it. Twenty minutes later, I had to give up – I missed the window needed to check my bag, clear security and catch the train to my gate. I was frustrated and embarrassed to call my associates to tell them I would not be making the trip after all.

As I drove home, I kept thinking, “Lord, this must be a biggie because this is a pretty hefty interruption.” When I got home, I fully expected to hear about an accident or mishap on the plane, or an earthquake in California. Nothing. Silence.

When I went inside the house, I noticed my daughter had left her homework folder. I didn’t think much about it, quickly grabbed it and ran it to her at school. She was stunned to see me. She thought I was on the trip, so my bringing her the folder was completely unexpected and relieving. I got a very big hug and thank you for the gesture. She could have missed recess for her error - a big deal in second grade. Also, of course, her grade would suffer.

I didn’t think much more about it, after returning to work for the afternoon. The evening was full of football practice, making dinner, cleaning up - the usual. But then it was bedtime.

As I tucked Abby in, we talked a little, prayed and after kissing her and telling her I love her, I started to leave.
“Mommy,” she said.
“Yes honey,” I replied.
“Thank you for bringing me my folder today. That was the best thing that happened all day,” she said.
“You’re welcome baby. I’m glad I was here to do it for you,” I said.
“Me, too,” she answered. “I love you.”
“I love you, too,” I sniffed (trying not to cry).

As I left her room, teary but thankful, I felt a tug on my heart. “You were her miracle today.” I thought, wow. Lord, thank you for interrupting me for her. A precious reminder for me to never underestimate the significance of the things you do for your kids. It may seem like nothing to you, but it could mean everything to them. And, that said, we should never stop seeking God in the everyday moments. What seems insignificant or small to us could mean everything.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” James 1:2

The past couple of weeks have been a test. A test of our strength, endurance and, especially, our faith. My husband was in an accident and really hurt his shoulder. So bad it required surgery to repair.

It was a lot to process and pray over. You see, he makes his living with that arm giving hitting lessons and running a baseball academy. So, not only are we praying for healing, we are praying for provision as well. His recovery will take several months.

I have seen God moving in big ways as we’ve experienced the accident, surgery and transition back home.

Before this happened, Steve was pressing. Firing on all cylinders. Between running the academy for competitive teams, giving private lessons and working as a hunting guide, he was spread pretty thin. I think the devil was at work in the situation, keeping him so busy he barely had time for his family, much less time to focus on God.

Just before he left on this particular guiding trip, we had a talk. As the one who picks up the pieces and tries to keep “everything else” going, I needed more of him. More important, he needs more of him. The Steve who is fun to be around, makes me laugh , loves his kids and is there for his family. All this happens when he is able to relax and refocus after busy days.

Interestingly and concurrently, his academy coaches have been counseling him to spend less time throwing and hitting to the kids, and more time instructing. We talked about this a couple weeks ago while I was reading in the Book of James, so I read him the first few verses. We talked about confirmation of his calling and that even with that realization, there would be many trials.

Can’t you just see God’s hand weaving all this together? With that knowledge, we need to cling wholeheartedly to our faith in Him because the trial isn’t over and it isn’t isolated to Steve alone. This is a family battle and I’ve felt my own flaming arrows.

As I’ve balanced playing Florence Nightengale with Wonder Woman (and failed miserably, I might add), I’ve been driven to my knees. He is the only one who can give me the kind of strength I need to get through this. When it’s the pain talking and not Steve, only He can help me extend the grace that covers. Only He can cause me to pause and pray rather than react and respond as my flesh would have it. Only He can wrap His arms around me in the middle of angst and worry to reassure me that He is in control and is working it all for good. Only He can give me the words of comfort for our children as we pray each night. And only He can take this circumstantial mess called life and polish it to make it shine for His glory.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

My son wanted to play football so badly it was almost irritating. He pestered us for months about it. For a variety of reasons, he wasn't able to play for the past couple years, when he would have played flag, learned the ropes and determined if he really liked it or not. So this year, at 10, he’s playing tackle.

The first two weeks were brutal. He was afraid. Afraid of getting hit, afraid of hitting, afraid of getting hurt, you name it. There were tears, stomach aches, asthma attacks and more. Every night, he told me he did not want to play. It took every ounce of strength I had not to let him quit.

My husband talked to him about commitments, perseverance and dedication to his team. Steve firmly believes that you do not quit. This is a man who played an entire year of professional baseball with a torn ACL. The guy is tough, and doesn’t give up.

Sadly, I am not so tough. This episode forced me to take a look at a part of my past that I had long forgotten and buried. It was a wound I didn’t even realize I still had. You see, for a long time, I was a quitter and that defective part of my personality tried to resurface to protect my son.

But God. God brought those painful memories back to use them for good. He helped me use the memories to teach Trevor a life lesson that will make him a stronger person and a person who clings to his identity in Christ. When the football issue was at its peak, I had a long talk with Trevor. In that conversation, I painfully recounted examples of how I had quit when things got tough. Even more, we talked about how for a long time, I did not have Jesus to lean on, to help me when times got tough, to ask for strength. It was one of the most vulnerable conversations I’ve had with him. He could see my weakness and regret. But, he could also see how desperately I need Jesus to face the challenges of this life. We found a couple of power verses that I prayed over him that night.

He still doesn’t love football and I’m fairly certain he won’t play again. But, he did not quit and he is learning to declare that he cannot face life’s hurdles without help. Help that comes from the One who can conquer anything. I pray for him before practices and games. He smiles a little when I do. In fact, at tonight’s practice, he did pretty well. When we got home he told me it must have been because of the angels that I had asked to protect him in my pre-practice prayer.

I am realizing that there are some struggles and pain that I have locked away in the dark places of my heart. I need to let Jesus shine His light on them and wash over me so I can release the burden that I still carry from it. He’s forgiven me and wants to take it from me. I need to release it and let Him.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing...

...If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” John 15:5-6

I notoriously run the gas in my car down to fumes before I fill up the tank. This habit has bitten me severely on more than one occasion. Most notably, the day my daughter was born. The day before, I stopped for gas after work. There was some glitch with the debit card reader, so instead of going inside to pay, I got annoyed and left without getting gas. The indicator light was on, but I was certain I could get gas the next morning when my mom and I went shopping for the baby. Oh yes, you know what’s coming!

Sure enough, at 1 a.m. I was in labor. By 4 I thought I’d take a shower to help the pain. At 4:30, my water broke and I knew we were in trouble. With me still soaked from the shower and in crazy pain, we scrambled to car to high-tail it to the hospital. We had a 40-minute drive. Speeding along, my husband realized we had NO gas. Frantically, he stopped, pumped just enough to get us to the hospital and tossed money at the clerk. All the while, I was doing everything I could NOT to have the baby in the car, especially since our 2-year-old son was in the car with us. All I could do was breathe and pray. We pulled in to the emergency entrance at 6 a m. Abby was born at 6:14. It was seriously ridiculous. You would think I’d learn my lesson about filling my tank.

Sometimes that’s how we approach our relationship with Jesus, isn’t it? We go and go, thinking we have everything under control, and wait for the spiritual tank to run on fumes before we stop and pause to refill it. That is such an injustice to Jesus and is so far from the relationship He wants with us.

John’s Gospel records a profound statement from Jesus. In John 15:5, Jesus tells us, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” With Jesus, we will bear much fruit – nourished and flourishing for God’s glory. Without Jesus, as He tells us in verse 6, “If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wither and dry up. That is what can happen with a dry tank.

He is there all the time, ready and willing. To refresh us. Tor revitalize us. To renew our spirit and be a part of us. When we recognize this and begin to understand just how radically life-changing that truth is, we can’t help but want more of Him.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

“Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me.” Psalm 35:1

I wasn’t the one under attack, it was my husband. I don’t know about you, but my fleshly, protective instincts kick in much harder when someone I love is being attacked. Even more so than if I’m the one who’s being lashed out against. Its mama bear meets Indian blood and I tell you, it can get to boiling pretty fast.

My husband had weathered this criticism on his character and ability for months. He shared small pieces here and there, but not the full-on assault. A couple weeks ago, he shared more. A lot more. Seriously, I felt my neck heating up and my instinct to defend him kicking in. After all, I’m a writer and much of the attack was written. Surely I could craft a perfectly composed response that would certainly put the accuser in their place, and maybe, take them down a notch or two in the process. This is my man, after all.

Steve knows me all too well. He could sense my wheels turning and cautioned me to leave it alone, he wasn’t nearly as upset over this as me.

This festered in me for days and I don’t know why, but I could not seem to give it up. In a sense, it came to a head that weekend, and Steve again reminded me that he was okay; the attacker was not affecting him. I left alone and drove away, headed to a function.

That’s when it hit. I clearly heard the Lord’s whisper in my spirit. “Don’t you know that I have Steve in the palm of my hand? That this is my plan for him?” I started to defend my actions, “yes, but this…” He interrupted my defense. “Don’t you TRUST me? Am I not big enough to carry him through this? He believes me. You need to also.” Wow. Okay. Boy, when He speaks, there’s no denying it. Father please forgive my disobedience.

Then, the most amazing thing happened. He turned my heart from anger to sadness, showing me the hurt from which the attacker was coming. This person is lost and scared. Attacking others is a defense mechanism that feeds an insecure spirit. It was something only God could do in my heart. I stopped and prayed for this person. And then, I let go of it.

Incredibly, a few days before Steve shared this with me, I felt compelled to study Psalm 35. I couldn’t understand why at the time, but I obeyed. The reason became crystal clear in the car that afternoon. He is big enough for anything we may face. No attack, no circumstance is too big for Him. As He gently reminded me, he has us securely in the palm of His mighty and gracious hand.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

“The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” Proverbs 4:18

I need contacts to see distance and glasses to read. A by-product of aging, you might say. There are lots of days, however, when I either forget or do not have enough time to put in my contacts. Life becomes a bit of a challenge when I’m seeing it through the blurred lenses of my aging eyes. The sharpness and clarity of corrected vision are not part of these days and I’m often functioning at a bit of a disadvantage.

Colorado sunrise
This verse in Proverbs really painted a vivid picture for me. As dawn breaks, the light of the sun sharpens the morning sky until the clarity and crispness are nearly too much for the unprotected eye to bear.

The same can be said for the unprotected heart. A heart that is not grounded in relationship with Him cannot survive. Without Jesus as our filter and lens, the ways of this world will cloud vision and force people to function at an eternal disadvantage. I learned this lesson later in life, accepting Jesus at age 35. I tell you, I was living without corrective lenses for far too long. But, he has redeemed me and opened up a world that I never knew existed. Vision, direction and spiritual clarity are mine for the asking, and He freely gives it every time I earnestly seek it. And He can do the same for you. No contacts required.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

“Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.’" Genesis 32:26

My mom had surgery this morning. It was not a major or serious procedure, but it did require her to be under anesthesia for over an hour and will require several weeks of recovery. While I have known for a while that she had this planned, the reality and emotion of it still somehow crept up on me.

My mom, sister, daughter and me.
I live 2000 miles away from my parents – they are in Florida and I’m in Colorado. Most of the time, with cell phones and email, that distance doesn’t feel so big. Actually, I’m probably closer to my mom now that I live so far away thanks to all the conveniences of modern technology. Even so, with all that life has going on I hadn’t talked to her in a few weeks. Last Saturday morning, we were able to talk for a good, long time. She sweetly shared her experiences leading up to this procedure – even the sometimes irritating complications and challenges of pre-op doctor visits. She told me she used something I taught her when she felt like she was under attack. After a series of delays and paperwork mishaps, a nurse of all people said to her, “maybe God is trying to tell you not to do this.” She boldly responded, “no, as my daughter would say, this is Satan trying to attack and I’m not going to let him.” I was glad she couldn’t see me when she told me this because the tears were streaming. She then relayed how she felt at complete peace with everything. God is so faithful. This is something I have prayed many times to hear.

Two nights ago, I could not sleep. I tossed and turned all night. At some point, I found myself thinking about the story of Jacob wrestling with God through the night. I gave up at 4:30 and got out of bed. I picked up my Bible and began reading. I began praying about my mom and the surgery. As I did, I began to seek out Scriptures that I could share with her to help give her comfort. I found several and put them into a document, adding a few of my own thoughts after each - notes to her. I sent it off to her and asked her to take it with her – praying God’s words are both powerful and comforting. What I didn’t realize was that it would be powerful and comforting for me, as well as my mom. What a blessing. So, this morning when I woke at 5 a.m. thinking about her being in the middle of surgery, I opened up the document and prayed those Scriptures aloud as I asked God to be with my mom during her procedure. And He was. She did great and is on her way to her house with my dad, to begin the road to recovery. I’m thankful and grateful.

Like Jacob’s wrestling match where there was blessing in the end, I believe this experience has been an intricately woven tapestry of blessing in the lives of my mom and me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him." Psalm 62:5

This past weekend I was given a beautiful gift. No, it wasn’t in a perfectly wrapped box with an exquisite bow adorning the top. It was better. It was the gift of time. My husband and son went on a very special boys’ trip, leaving my daughter and I with a weekend alone.

Instead of over-planning and trying to cross multiple items off my always too long to-do list, I picked the 1 or 2 critical must-dos (laundry, grocery shop) and let the rest go. I left the choices regarding food to Abby. We would eat one dinner out and one at home – but the food was up to her. She made great choices that we both enjoyed.

We spent an entire day together – making a list of places we wanted to go (we like to shop!) and went on our way. It was not so much about looking at things or trying on clothes as it was about just to two of us being alone, enjoying each other’s company. We laughed a lot. My daughter is a riot. She has the gift of an amazing sense of humor and one of the sweetest sounding laughs I’ve ever heard. Our day was a lot of fun. We finished with Chinese food at home and some “home spa” pampering – mini-pedicures and facials. We snuggled in for a slumber party and thanked God for our special time.

As wonderful as that 36-hour stretch with Abby was, the bigger blessing came on Saturday morning. I woke up before her and let her sleep in – closing the door to my room where had stayed with me Friday night. I grabbed my Bible, journal, a great devotional book titled “Jesus Calling” and my first cup of coffee of the day. Settling in on the couch, I prayed and opened the devotional. I had a couple days to catch up on so I was quite surprised when the first reading was clearly about pausing and just taking time to be in His presence. It was the perfect place to start quiet time.

I enjoyed a long, joyful devotional period that morning. The Scripture references sent me to lots of different places and gave me great reassurance of His love and a peaceful focus on Him. It was the spiritual exercise I had needed for days.

The gift of last weekend – both the time with the Lord and with Abby – was a lovely reminder of priorities. When my relationship with the Lord, or my dedication to my family begins to slip lower on the list, I am the one who suffers. I am grateful for that reminder. It’s often too easy to start the day thinking about everything I think I “need to do.” By giving God that first part of the day – however much time that is – He helps prioritize my thinking and somehow (wink, smile) I end up having a much, much better day.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

“As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. ‘Follow me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.” Mark 2:14

Follow me. These two, simple yet powerful words got a hold of me. As I read them in Mark 2:14, they gripped something inside. In that passage Levi (Matthew) immediately responded to Jesus’ command. No questions asked. Those words and his response stayed with me. In fact, they have been reoccurring in messages throughout the week. Hmm. Is He trying to tell me something?

As I prayed this week, the words to a song by the Sidewalk Prophets began to stand out. Much like “Follow Me,” the words “Father of love, you can have me” struck a chord in my heart. Last night, as I was driving to pick up my daughter, the song came on. I found myself closing my eyes and singing those words with my whole heart.

It was a “yes Lord” moment. I need to remain fully immersed in His plan and trust that He is all I need. That’s easy for me to say and hard for me to always do. There are bills to pay, my husband and our kids have many needs, there are expectations on me at work. My tendency is to wrap up in those other things too much and forget all that I am equipped to do.

I came back from the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks conference a couple weeks ago full of fire and inspiration. I am still very full, don’t get me wrong. In fact, when I came back, I wanted to lock myself in a closet and just write.

But in all honesty, that is not what the Lord has placed in me either. Yes, I am called to write – He has made that crystal clear. But, I am also called to be a light. And that is found in the other areas of life that are vitally important to being a witness for Him. A witness in my role as a wife, mother, friend, daughter, sibling, employee, encourager and teacher. Those are areas where it should be evident to all I come in contact with that I am following Him. Like Matthew, asking no questions. Perhaps that is the story He’s calling me to live first and then write.

Friday, August 6, 2010

“…And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Esther 4:14

Interestingly, the two sessions at last weekend’s She Speaks conference that grabbed me the most were practically bookended – one the first night and the last speaker of the weekend. Completely different in their message, God was using these sessions to tuck away ideas, encouragement and even conviction into my soul.

This verse from Esther has been one that has resonated in me for a long time. Esther was the first Bible study I ever took part in and I can honestly say I have never learned so much as I did during that time. I felt like a sponge, taking in knowledge and truth in a way I didn’t know was possible. In this week after the conference, this verse has bubbled up in my heart and seemed to be grabbing for attention. So I re-read the story and it certainly seemed to fit. For reasons only my God knows, He set in motion a series of events that paved the way for me to go to She Speaks. As a grateful recipient, my job was to see what He had to say to me through it.

The emotional roller coaster of just getting to the conference was at last behind me (see blog post. 8/2/10) and I sat with great anticipation as the conference began. That first night, I attended a talk given by Cecil Murphy. Cec to his friends, Cecil is a very successful author, speaker and mentor. Cecil graciously donated scholarships for over ten attendees. He truly believes in giving back and helping the next generation.

Cecil’s talk was titled “Who Would Have Thought?” He engaged us in a discussion about some incredible examples of books that have reshaped conversations, opened doorways and enlightened on subjects – books that for lots of logical reasons should not have been successful, yet somehow were. The underlying current of his message was that as a writer, you never know what God will do with you and sometimes He will use the most unusual people.

This really struck a cord with me because sometimes I wonder what it is that God has in mind for me. Yes, I consider myself a writer. But to what extent I am an expert in any given subject or an authority on some unique life circumstance, I’m not really sure. But, in Cecil’s message I found encouragement. Because God uses those with a willing heart and teachable spirit to accomplish His purposes – through the mechanism that He chooses. And really, it’s not about me or my expertise – it’s what God is doing through me that matters. That, could also be the story He wants to tell.

Sunday morning was our last official session. Proverbs 31 speaker and writer Karen Ehman was presenting. Her talk was titled “First Love.” Oh boy did she deliver. How often are we caught up in the daily dealings of life, our ministry, even the temptations of the “shiny things” that we forget our first love – Jesus – is the center of it all? Karen’s talk was highlighted by a key verse in Revelation, Rev. 2:5 which says, “Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”

As she unpacked the verse for us, many aspects convicted me. The hardest pill to swallow was the challenge to memorize Scripture. For whatever reason, this is not something I have been able to do well. I can “quote generally speaking.” But, as I have learned as I have faced attacks over the past few weeks, generally speaking isn’t enough to cut it. Speaking God’s truths from God’s own words are powerful and give an advantage over the enemy and his attacks. But even more than that, don’t I love my Jesus enough to write His words on my own heart?

Tears were running down my cheeks as Karen choked out her own words through them. I knew exactly what she was saying and it felt like I had been ripped open. My takeaway from the session was this – we must never lost sight of our passionate pursuit of the person of Jesus.

I left that morning challenged yet feeling loved. Because while the truth hurt, the grace that flowed in that room was real. The Proverbs 31 team was there to minister, pray with or just extend a hug to anyone who asked. This journey is wildly exciting. Knowing that I’m taking it with other women who share in my struggles and my victories makes it even better.

Monday, August 2, 2010

“O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." 2 Chron. 20:12

This past weekend, I had an incredible opportunity to attend the She Speaks conference put on by Proverbs 31 Ministries. Last week, as I prepared to travel to North Carolina for the conference, I also tried to prepare my heart and mind to be open and ready for teaching. After all, this conference is practically a how-to for women’s ministry and that’s an area I believe I am called to be part of in some way. I thought I was ready. And then…

On the first flight from Denver to Washington DC, I listened to a couple of podcasts. They are from Louie Giglio’s Passion City Church in Atlanta. If you’ve never heard him speak, you absolutely must check him out. In the first program, the message was about lifting our eyes to Jesus. Keeping them fixed on him in the midst of all the trials, challenges and good things of this life. Knowing that without him, we cannot make it, will just make a mess of things and will never know the full beauty of the plan he has for our lives. Louie talked about the story of King Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20. Under fierce attack, the king prays to his God and asks for him to place His hand in the middle of the situation. Sure enough, through the faithfulness of the king and his people, the three attacking armies defeat themselves before King Jehoshaphat’s army even arrives. Through it all, they remained fixed on the Lord their God and praised him.

I listened to this and thought, wow, this is just what I needed to hear to prepare further for this conference. Yup, I was ready. I arrived in DC to make my connection to Charlotte. And then…

That’s when the attack began. I knew the enemy did not want me to go. I battled it for weeks leading up to the conference. But I thought he had been defeated and all was fine. How wrong I was. After arriving in DC, here’s what happened in a nutshell:

• Flight delayed for 2-plus hours, then canceled altogether
• No ability for the airline to reschedule for 36 hours (at which point the conference would be more than half over)
• No complimentary hotel or other option
• Miscue on retrieving my luggage (after waiting two hours) – it was put on the next flight to Charlotte (although seats weren’t available, there was room for my luggage)
• A dying cell phone – charger was in my luggage

As if the enemy was saying to me, see, you think you need/want to go and learn more about fulfilling what you say is your calling. Well, see how much of a Jesus girl you are after this!

To which I said, GET OUT OF MY WAY! And I proceeded:
I Tweeted, texted and Facebooked an urgent request for prayer to friends and the Proverbs 31 sisterhood – others preparing for and traveling to the conference. I knew they would have my back. I then rented a car, bought a phone charger, an energy drink, some food and headed out of DC at 11:30 p.m., determined to make the 500-mile drive during the night.

I was driving for about two hours, singing with Christian radio that I found on the dial, thinking that I had it under control. And then…

That stinking devil tried again to break me down. I started to wrestle with my decision to drive. Do you know how far it is? Do you really think driving 500 miles in the middle of the night, a woman alone, is a smart idea? As I wrangled these, and other thoughts, I made a transition on the highway to head south. As I did, I began to crest a hill. I had lost the radio signal so the car was silent. Just as I began to climb, I looked up to see the most incredible sight. There, straight ahead of me at the top of the mountain were three 2-3 stories-high illuminated white crosses. Seeing them took my breath away. I began to tear up. Okay God, I said through sobs, it’s clear to me that this is not about me. You are showing me that my heart was not as prepared as it needs to be for this conference. That like the story of King Jehoshaphat, I need to fully fix my eyes on you. I had no power to face this vast army that is attacking me. I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on you. (see 2 Chron. 20:12).

With that realization, I began to have an incredible time of worship and prayer with the Lord. I continued on feeling the tight grip of the prayers of my sisters while my God showed me the way.

Finally the next morning, I arrived at the conference. Tired? Absolutely. Discouraged? Absolutely not! I felt a supernatural energy as I entered the hotel. As I did, there sat two of my P31 sisters. We hugged and shared tears of joy and relief. I knew it was going to be okay.

With Lysa TerKeurst
That evening as we listened to the opening night’s message, Lysa TerKeurst, president of Proverbs 31 Ministries, delivered a talk that encouraged us to wave off the presence of the evil one. To stand strong and say ‘you shall not pass.’ I was rocked. Those were nearly the exact words I had been saying on my drive. Lysa continued her talk and as if she had been listening to the same message I had heard the day before, she began to tell us about the story of King Jehoshaphat and how he knew that without his God, he had no chance against the attack of his enemies. That he paused and prayed to his God to help them. That in the middle of a seemingly impossible situation, a God-honoring response would yield God-sized reach. And that’s just what happened in the Bible. The 3 countries converging on Judah were overcome and began fighting among themselves until there was not a man left alive when King Jehoshaphat’s army arrived singing praises to our Lord. The enemy was defeated and God delivered them. I could absolutely relate.

Hearing that story twice in less than 24 hours, I went back to my room that night practically shaking. I knew God had delivered me where He wanted me. I was affirmed and encouraged. I prayed that night and the whole weekend for God to speak into my heart. To show me those places where I need more of him and less of me. I prayed for Him to teach me and direct my steps.

In 48 hours, I learned so much. Received so much. Gave so much. But most of all, I felt my Lord holding me tenderly yet firmly, never letting go.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast,” 1 Peter 5:10.

Next week, I leave for She Speaks conference and I couldn’t be more excited. I am going there with a high level of expectation. God is working big time and it’s incredible to be included! But, as I’ve been preparing my heart and mind for what I know will be a tremendous learning experience, the enemy has been on the attack, seriously on the attack!

Of course, that’s what happens when we commit to being God’s soldiers – he looks for ways to defeat us. He’ll use self-doubt, struggle, illness, and any number of other jabs, stabs and assaults to try and knock us off our mission. Friends I say this because the past couple weeks have been a big-time attack period. I felt inadequate and not good enough to accomplish anything in the “real world of writing.” I got down on myself for not sticking to my workout regimen and not feeling my best physically. I lost motivation. And, to top it off, I was sick as a dog with no diagnosis and no medicine to treat it. For two weeks I suffered without any sleep – spending every night coughing my head off! I was struggling.

And then. A series of three events/communications came my way that were clearly from God. Strong messages that have strengthened and reassured me that I may be under attack, but I will not be defeated.

Last weekend I was preparing for a busy day at the ballfield. My son’s team had two games, so we were going to be there all day. I was assembling our boatload of supplies: coolers of food and drinks, sunscreen, chairs, blankets, etc. Hurrying around, I was also letting little twinges of doubt creep into my thoughts. How did I think I could handle this calling when I can’t even organize a day at the baseball field? Just then, the dogs needed to go out and they need supervision. I hurried them out, hoping they’d take a minute or two to do “their business” and I could get back to my frantic preparations. Not to be. They putzed, so I sat down on the steps. Something told me to relax, breath in the morning air and pause. As I did, two words entered my spirit. “She Speaks.” At that moment, I cried. I thanked God for clearly reaffirming that yes, He has chosen me for something and I am NOT inadequate.

A few days later, I received a message from a dear friend who has an amazing gift of prophecy. She receives and writes messages that she just knows are for specific people. Her message to me was elegant and beautiful – and clearly another affirmation from my Heavenly Father. Among other things, her note said I am richly blessed and beloved. That God has invited me to His table and a seat of honor has been given to me.

Who wouldn’t just melt upon hearing that? I literally dropped to my knees and thanked God. He knows just what we need, when we need it.

The final piece of this intricate puzzle was an email from Lysa TerKeurst, the President of Proverbs 31 Ministries, the organization that puts on She Speaks. The title was “You’re Not the Only One.” It was to reassure those of us preparing to attend the conference that we are all facing trials. Some are struggling with self-doubt, some are stressing over the size of their waistline, some wonder if they are really “good enough” to be called for this purpose. Some, like me, may be struggling with all of these! However, the message was clear. We are all human and struggle with things every day, but Jesus loves us perfectly. His pure, perfect love sees past anything I may consider a flaw. And, by all means, YES, we are absolutely perfect for this calling. God uses everyone who’s willing for His wonderful purpose. That’s all we need to be – willing! Isn’t that a great thought? I don’t need to have the perfect outfit, perfect words or especially perfect abs (thank goodness) to fulfill the call. These are all attacks from the enemy and I’m not taking it and I have told him so!

So, I prepare my heart and mind with a spirit of great expectation and gratitude. I am humbled that God wants to use me for something – to help tell His story. He has a plan and I am a willing and obedient participant. I cannot wait to continue to share this journey and see what He has in store. I’m grateful for everyone who has supported me through prayer, encouragement, kind words and simply by reading my writing. It means the world to me. Blessings and love!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

“Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, ‘If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed...’

...Jesus turned and saw her. ‘Take heart, daughter,’ he said, ‘your faith has healed you.’ And the woman was healed from that moment.” Matthew 9:20-22

The past few weeks have been quite tough in the health department. I’ve been sick with an unexplained crud (my term) and have not been able to sleep more than 3-4 hours every night. After about 10 days, I went to the doctor. I left with no diagnosis, but three prescriptions that cost a lot to fill. But, I thought, if they help, so be it. After three days, I didn’t feel any better and was even more frustrated. On the doctor’s referral, I went in for a chest x-ray. Two days later, I was told the x-ray was negative. At this point, I’ve been sick for two and a half weeks. I feel like a zombie and have spent hours crying for relief.

The one thing I haven’t done enough of is pray. Sure, at three in the morning, I’ve begged God to take this from me, to give me sleep, any amount is fine, just let me sleep so I can begin to heal. But true prayer, the kind that rejoices even in the face of trial, prayer that is full of faith and hope that no matter what, God is able to change the circumstances in an instant. That kind of prayer has not been part of the conversation, sadly.

This morning, as I waited for yet another call from the doctor’s office, I was fiddling around on the computer listening to music online. Song after song grabbed at my heart and slowly I realized that I needed to release this frustration that I’ve been holding to and give it to Him. That I need to pray earnestly, asking Him to show me His purpose in this situation. So, I prayed. And, as I prayed, I remembered the comments of friends who have warned me to slow down and rest through this. Friends who have said they were praying for me and for my healing.

Through prayer, I realized that I needed to use this time to draw closer to Him. To see that through faith, He can heal anything, physical or spiritual. And my friends’ prayers for me to slow down really tell me that only by taking the time to spend with Him will I find true healing.

Monday, July 5, 2010

“A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel.” Proverbs 15:18

When my husband started a baseball academy a little more than a year ago, he told me that besides teaching young men the way to play the game, one of his other goals was to teach them about integrity and other valuable life lessons about how to conduct themselves. The boys in his organization range in age from 9-12. These are tricky years regardless, and can be even more challenging when you throw in high-level competitive sports.

This past weekend, in the state tournament, the youngest of the crew had the opportunity to learn a tough, but important lesson. The other team was in a situation where a player had to leave due to a family emergency. Unfortunate, yes, but because of the way they had submitted their lineup, that meant an automatic out every time that batter was due up. We pointed it out to the umpire, who enforced the rule. Because of that, the other coaching staff became belligerent, verbally abusive and completely unsportsmanlike. For whatever reason, the umpire decided to favor the other team as a result, leaving our team in an uphill battle. Balls were being called strikes, outs were being called safe – it was messy and ugly and our boys were frustrated. This went on for the final innings of the game, and in the end, our team lost by one run, knocking them out of the tournament.

But, upon reflection and further discussion, what made me incredibly proud was the manner in which our team conducted itself. Our team went out and played its best without questioning or arguing. Our coaching staff (my husband included) was being berated incessantly, but kept their cool and stayed focused. I think because of that, our boys realized they needed to do the same, and did.

Afterwards, the boys asked tons of questions and had even more incidents to relay. But what stood out was that most of the boys I talked with had the game in perspective. None of us had an answer for why they chose to behave that way, we just knew they did. We reminded ourselves that we’re all human and make mistakes. Two things bubbled up for me in my discussion with my son. Since we all make mistakes, we need to find a way to forgive those involved – God is in control of it all, even a baseball game – and things have a way of working out in the long run. And, when we find ourselves on the short end of the stick, how we respond says volumes. Our coaches and team remained calm, patient and focused and while it didn’t give them the win, they got a lot more.

My prayer is that each of us as parents looks at this, and other situations, and take this Scripture to heart. I’ve had to examine my own heart in the past couple days and really pray about the responses I made then and may make going forward. I realize over and over again that our children are looking at us to set the example for their behavior and what I’m modeling matters to their growth.

I believe that the standards my husband runs his academy by are high. And, I believe that because of that, our teams stand out from many in the crowd. The coaches run the teams with integrity and honor. I strongly believe that that life lesson means a great deal more than winning or losing.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

On April 20, 1999 the perception of safety and security in our nation’s school system changed forever. That was the day of the Columbine High School tragedy. Twelve students and one teacher were killed in a rampage that forever altered the Denver area, and perhaps, too, the nation. On that day, I was working only about 15 miles away from the school. Of course, I responded with shock, disbelief, sadness, and even anger at those responsible.

In the wake of the tragic event, an outpouring of love and support grew into the Columbine Memorial, opened in 2007 in nearby Clement Park. The Ring of Remembrance is buffered by the Wall of Healing. Designed into the pavement is an intricate ribbon bearing the words, Never Forgotten. Every year, the media mark the anniversary, now by visiting the site and revisiting that sad day in our memories. It’s been 11 years since Columbine.
Last weekend, my son’s baseball team played a tournament at Clement Park. As we arrived and began settling in, we noticed we were playing on the Dave Sanders Memorial Field. Sanders was the teacher killed, but also noted for his bravery during the attacks, his sacrifice in saving the lives of many students and his kindhearted approach to life and the school whose students he loved. Standing at that field, with its commemorative bricks all around us, we certainly felt a sense that there is so much more to life than the game we were about to watch.

We had a couple hours between games, so we decided to take the walk up to the Memorial, located atop a steep hill west of the fields. It was a very sobering experience, to say the least. With some of the kids with us, we trekked up, pausing to take in the quietness and beauty of the vast array of columbine flowers planted along the path. The columbine is the state flower of Colorado.

As we made our way around the memorial, one thing really stood out – many of the 13 memorial plaques, one for each of those killed that day, referenced Scripture and talked about that person’s relationship with the Lord. Through my streaming tears, I felt a sense of peace come over me. Knowing that the Lord was present and with each of those individuals, even in the midst of unspeakable circumstances, truly reinforced that we are never alone. My tears turned to sobs when I read the last words of Rachel Joy Scott. When asked if she believed in God, she boldly answered, “you know I do!” What a faith declaration.

As we made our way out and began walking back down to resume the tournament, the words to the song “Kindness” by Chris Tomlin just roared in my head.

And it's Your beauty, Lord
That makes us stand in silence
And Your love, Your love, is better than life

How very true! I had stood in silence looking at those plaques, marveling at how intimately many of those killed knew the Lord. Knowing that did bring out beauty in the middle of this tragedy. Afterward, I found myself replaying Rachel’s words, “you know I do!” If I were staring death square in the face, would I have such courage?

As numerous thoughts, words and ideas swirled about in my head and heart, I began to cling to this. That our God is bigger than we can ever imagine, and yet, He is with us in every single moment of our lives. He can name stars and galaxies we don’t even know exist, and he knows every hair on our heads. And while people question how He could let this happen or where was He when it did, I say He is right there. He was on that table outside the cafeteria with Rachel Scott when her life was taken, and he was with every single person that day at Columbine. He is with me in every moment – good or bad – and He shares in both my joy and my pain. And His forgiving love is the kindness that makes me stand in awe, knowing that while I don’t deserve it, it is by His grace and mercy that I received it and that, is better than life. Yes, never forget.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped...

...My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song.” Psalm 28:7

I have just returned from a beach vacation and my hope is that the lessons I learned there, like the memories made, will stay with me as I go on with life. The place we stayed at is located on the northern end of the island, on the edge of the usual development, hotels, and crowds. Because of the location, I have the luxury of solitude, something that is often lacking in my everyday life. That solitude has led to some amazing time with the Lord.

I usually walk on the beach every morning I’m there. My route happens to mean taking a right turn out of the condo. The route I like is about 3 miles round trip. It’s very secluded and I get lost in thoughts and hardly remember the walk most days. I love that about this stretch of beach. The time I spend in reflection, praise and prayer helps me to stay focused on the priority of Him, His purpose and plan and less on the distractions that typically lead me to sadness, stress and separation.

One day, I took a left instead of a right. This took me towards the crowds, the noise, the busyness of the other end of the beach. Now, there’s nothing wrong with that, a lot of people really enjoy the interaction and I believe those interactions can lead to moments of opportunity to share God’s message. But, it also means I’m not spending that time reflecting or praising because I am too distracted by everything going on around me.

For a few days since I took that route, I’ve been thinking. And I think that God is using that to teach me something. That every day I am faced with distractions and choices. What I choose and what I allow myself to be distracted by all impact my ability to stay centered and focused on Him. Keeping that commitment to spending time with Him before embarking on the day’s activities make a huge difference on the choices I make and the impact the distractions will have. I’ll be honest, my time with Him isn’t always the first thing I do when I get up. But, I am working on making time at some point in the morning – time in a devotional book I’m reading, time with some of the numerous email devotions I receive each day, a message on a podcast, or (my favorite) reading or listening to the Scripture on CD in the car. I find that if I spend time doing any of these, my day is better, my choices more in line with His and my stress level is lower.

While the tan lines from the vacation at the beach may fade, my prayer is that the focus gained will not. I long for that connection that is found in those moments of solitude when it is just me and my Lord.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life...

...what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" Matthew 6:25-27

I know several people who are facing incredible life trials. Some of them health, some financial, some relationship-based. The individual issues may vary, and there are definitely reasons for concern in each person’s struggle. But, some of them are facing these burdens without a true relationship with Jesus Christ, while some of them are walking with the Lord. This is where the similarities end. For those in relationship with Jesus, there is a hope, a strength, a comfort that this life is not the end and these trials will not define us. This life and its challenges will fall away in eternity with a joy that is impossible for us to even remotely imagine in this life. For those who are not in relationship with Jesus, I’m pained and saddened to watch the struggles they face dictate their daily existence. These trials become an immovable burden and their very being becomes centered around the challenges of life. It is incredibly difficult to watch and my heart breaks for them.

Having Christ in our heart means our circumstances do not dictate our outlook. We can face life with a joy that is not of this world. One of the toughest trials our family faced was the loss of a job – in one day half of our income slipped away. What could have been a devastating blow became a window of opportunity that has radically changed us. From that, God lined up a path that only He could orchestrate. And now, we are able to fulfill a life purpose that is having an incredible impact on the next generation. We are only at the beginning, too. It’s exciting to think about the possibilities that God has in store for this journey. Becoming a surrendered, willing servant is the key.

Trusting that we need not worry and that God provides for us all that we need is what I have to cling to during our trials. That can be tough to do, I know. The day to day challenges of life have a tendency to wear on us, especially when we are in the midst of trying times. However, as tough as it may be, this is not what Jesus tells us. Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that we should not fear. While I may stumble at times with this concept, I am gently reminded to turn to Him. And I know that when I walk with the Lord through my trials, He is glorified and I come out ahead in the end.

Friday, June 18, 2010

"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

I am spending a week at the beach and loving it. This place is truly special to me and is the place where I feel most connected to the Lord. Last year, it was where I poured out my heart to Him and He answered with a specific direction for my life.

Yesterday morning I was up to take my morning walk on the beach. I always approach it with some level of expectancy because it’s generally pretty secluded and I can lose myself in praise and prayer while traveling north toward Caladesi Island State Park in north Clearwater Beach.

I found myself captured by the creatures along the low tide shoreline, many of whom were frantically trying to scurry themselves back into the Gulf of Mexico. Only a foot or two from the water, they scratched and clawed their way towards the bubbling waves that would take them back to the safety of the water. And then, I watched the birds. Those little, fast-moving opportunistic critters moving along the water’s edge searching for food. They ebbed and flowed with the tide, carefully avoiding getting in the water.

The contrast really jumped out at me. Isn’t that how I approach the Lord sometimes? Aren’t there times when I am desperately clinging to Him, seeking Him and longing to be completely immersed in Him? And yet, aren’t there other times when I think I can skim along the edge and get just close enough to get by without truly diving in and trusting fully? Those thoughts captivated me while I traveled the water’s edge. Thinking about those creatures whose every action is geared at just getting back to the safety and comfort of total surrender to the water of life made me long for that mindset. The birds reminded me of how often I think I can tiptoe just close enough that I think I’m relying on Him when, in fact, I think I’ve got it all under control. Thinking about that gripped my heart and convicted me that I need to make every effort to by more like the animals who knew they were nothing outside of full immersion into the water. I am nothing without full immersion, full surrender to the Lord.

And then, something very interesting occurred. As I trekked along watching this scene play out along the shore and in my mind, I encountered a couple walking the opposite direction. Every so often they would stop and I noticed the man would stoop down and toss something in the water. The closer I got to them, I realized he was picking up those desperate creatures and gently returning them to the safety of the Gulf. That really struck a chord in my heart. That couple was going along and whenever they could, they stopped to redirect the course of one of those creatures, literally breathing life back in them with their effort. As Christians, aren’t we fortunate to have people in our lives who help redirect us and bring us back closer to God just when we need it? People who travel along and step in when you are most desperate and help us find our way back to the beauty of total immersion in the Lord.

I finished my walk with a spring in my step. As I did, the words of this passage in Matthew’s Gospel filled my heart. “Come to me,” Jesus said. Come and unload your burdens. We can be just like the shoreline creatures, when the weight of the shell they live in becomes heavy after they are removed from their protector. We become loaded down with the troubles of life when we try to carry them ourselves. Then Jesus says, “come to me” and offers sweet relief. God paints such a beautiful picture for us in simple, every day things. If we’re willing to be open to the message, He will speak in ways that will keep our focus just where it ought to be.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

...And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7

Our family received news today that no family wants to hear. The kind of news that takes the wind out of your sails and, if you’re not careful, can cause you to question God. As soon as I received the news, I immediately prayed, asking God to remove this burden. To reach down and touch our beloved with the healing that only He can provide. We need a miracle. A God-sized miracle. So, that’s what I prayed for.

As I drove home tonight, I was thinking more about this situation and talking to Him about my feelings about it, my lack of understanding for the circumstance and my human desire to want it to go away, regardless of His bigger plan. As I thought about this, I felt gentle reminder in my spirit that He is with us, even in this hardship. That He has given us a weapon in the fight. The power of prayer and the powerful name of Jesus. Perhaps His plan is to remove this burden. I don’t know that it isn’t, it's too soon to tell. But, if it isn’t, what is that going to mean for the faith of our family?

Well, for me, I am clinging to the truths that I know from His Word. That He loves us – including my stricken family member. That we are not alone, even in the depths of life-threatening circumstances. That this life is not the end for us. The Bible tells us that we will face trials in this life. But, knowing that we never face those trials alone gives me a focus and purpose that is beyond the circumstance.

In a recent Bible study course, we were asked to write a prayer that focuses on Him and not our circumstances. Here’s what I wrote. “Lord, I praise you. That you would choose to love me, despite my brokenness. And that you would send your Son to a death meant for me, to pardon my debt, is beyond anything I could ever deserve. And yet, you freely offered it to me to simply receive. For that, I praise you. In ALL my circumstances.” I just thumbed back to this prayer in my notes because it reminds me that praise isn’t limited to the good times. It is in all times.

The song, “I Will Rise,” by Chris Tomlin got me through a time of personal trial and potential life-threatening crisis. The words are perfect for this, and any other situation that is beyond our human comprehension.

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

Monday, May 17, 2010

“I will sing to the Lord, for He has been good to me.” Psalm 13:6

“Congratulations!! You are fully funded!” Those five words greeted me in an email as I heard from the wonderful staff of Proverbs 31 Ministries sharing the news that I’ll be attending She Speaks, their women’s conference designed for those with a call to do more with either writing or speaking ministries. I tell you, the tears were flowing when I read those words. Friends, my sponsorship is fully paid and I am humbled and in awe. I’m sharing this with you because this blog has been the spark that has started something that God is blowing me away through. People have been touched by these simple messages and have been moved to grow closer to Him.

A couple of months ago, God made it abundantly clear that I was to go to this year’s She Speaks conference. With trepidation and humility, I reached out across the internet, putting my dream in His plenty big hands. There was no way I could pay for the conference and transportation. Sure enough, many friends and family stepped in to help. People from all over this country – people who have touched me deeply through their generosity and kindness, as well as their willingness to be obedient to God’s call on their own hearts to help. Thank you is in no way enough to say. My heart is overflowing with love and joy.

And anticipation! There is something in the plan that requires me to be at this particular conference. Of that I am very sure. I am humbly submitted to whatever that plan is. And if all this weren’t enough, there have been a few divine connections that have come as a result of this, and the conference is still more than two months away! A dear friend shared that she is planning on attending. We haven’t been able to spend time together in years, living over 2000 miles apart and life’s journey taking us down different roads. Sure enough, God is bringing her from Florida and me from Colorado to a conference in North Carolina. And friends that have been made through the ministry of Proverbs 31 will also be there. Friends who prayed for the provision to allow me to attend. There was even a point when I had saved up a contribution of my own, but I felt that God was telling me to give it to a different ministry fundraiser. In obedience, I gave that money to the ministry. Within a week, that exact amount had been sent in by others. Wow.

So I say a heartfelt thank you to anyone who read about this dream and prayed for me; for those who helped and for anyone who has been touched by this blog. Oh yea, and the singing part…these words have been flowing through my mind over and over again. “And if our God is for us, than who could ever stop us, and if our God is for us, than what could stand against?” (Our God by Chris Tomlin)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

“We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.” 2 Corinthians 5:20

Have you ever wondered why you are where you are? Why you live where you live, with whom you live? Why you work where you work? Most of the time, probably many of us really don’t give it a lot of thought. For me, I jump on the why questions when things are tough. When there’s a foot of snow on the ground and I can’t get out of the driveway. When we are facing a struggle in our home. When a project at work, or situation with a co-worker, is uncomfortably difficult. It’s pretty easy to wonder if this is really where God wants me to be, if I let my thoughts wander or get rolling down a hill into a pit.

But, what if we flip that thought around and ask a different question of ourselves and God? What if, instead we asked, what is it in this situation/location/relationship that will have God can use me as his ambassador? That’s the challenge I’ve been parked on for a few days. It seems that there’s been a message threaded that I’m supposed to get. First, it was in the pages of the book our ladies group is finishing up. As I read the last few chapters, I felt a conviction to seek out the opportunities where they lie – and with whomever I am with. Then, there was a common theme in the worship music that I’ve randomly been hearing. Finally, today, our message at church was talking through “Risky Hope For Our Jobs.” Funny, I went into that one with a whole different idea of what the message was going to be. I was uncomfortably surprised when I found myself squirming a bit during the message. When the message hits that close to home, it can be a little unnerving.

I believe that God has us exactly where we are supposed to be, whether we believe it, like it or want it. I look around at some of the people closest to me and that is a hard pill to swallow. Circumstances are really hard – financial troubles, difficulties with children, work issues that won’t seem to improve, death and disease. It’s all really tough stuff and can put you dangerously close to slipping off that ledge into the pit. And if Christ isn’t the center of their lives, it is even more difficult. That is, I believe, why I am where I am and where you are where you are. As believers, we are called to shine a light – be a beacon that points the lost towards Jesus. It isn’t easy and there are lots of times when I fail, but then there are those moments when I see a flash of hope because of Christ that wasn’t there before. Or when a friend who is struggling with problems of life that are almost too much to bear asks something about God. Or when your child tells you that a difficult physical injury they have recovered from was because God sent his angels down to give her the strength she needed. Oh how my heart just leaps.

And, it’s in those moments that I am assured, through the grace of Jesus Christ, that I am in fact, exactly where I am supposed to be and my job is not finished so I must press on.