Friday, June 27, 2014

Sweet 16

There should be a medal or something for making it to 16 years of marriage.  At least another wedding shower. I could use new towels!  Funny to think I am still using my original pots, pans, and potholders! 

We got tickled last night at what things had to go soon after we married.  I married young and thought that cooking consisted of hamburger helper.  (Or tuna helper...can't believe he stayed with me, ya'll!) We also laughed at what has stayed around.  Other than the pots and pans, poppyseed chicken still makes its appearance!

Our first home was brand new and cost a whopping $63,000.  We recently had to buy a new minivan and spent something way too close to that number.  Amazing what 16 years does to inflation!  I can remember being able to go to the store and get a few things that would last us a week for only $25.  Now, I can't even do that for $100.  (We'll blame that on a bunch of kiddos, not just inflation!)

Our first months of marriage were pretty much bliss.  Then reality set in.  My husband didn't lay in bed and talk at night.  (gasp!)  I was pretty much doped up on awful birth control pills that made me half crazy.  Anyway, I would lay there in bed and listen to him snore and pray that God would make him sensitive to me and wake up and talk. I would get madder and madder and finally storm myself into the kitchen that was about two steps away.  I would plop myself down by the fridge and stare at the moon and wonder if things (you know, my husband's selfishness!!!) would ever get better.

I laugh at those days now.  Being married awhile teaches you that you should get to know your mate a bit before you lay crazy expectations on them.  I learned that Eric isn't a night person.  He's a morning person (oh the horror!!!)  and expecting him to talk at night was simply an unreasonable request.

Today, he agrees not to overwhelm me with information in the morning and I agree to not do it at night.

There are things through the years that have had to go other than just hamburger helper. I had to release some bitterness and Eric had to release some things as well.  Marriage is a constant surrender in trying to love your spouse as Jesus does.  Unconditionally. 

Happy Sweet 16! 

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Break Every Chain

I've had the song on repeat for about a month now.  Break Every Chain.  I love don't care whether the version is by Tasha Cobbs, The Digital Age, or Jesus Culture.  It is my go-to song right now when my soul can't form the words to pray.  The first line of the song wells up great emotion out of the depths every single time.  There is power in the name of Jesus.

Power in His name.  That is what I need to know right now when circumstances in the world shout otherwise.  There is power to break the curse of cancer, power to create a beautiful and good government, power to plunge pornography and abuse to the deepest hell, power to breathe life into barren spaces, power to keep custody of children, power to discern evil, power to watch loved ones waste away on their death beds, power to grieve those you still ache for, power to reverse difficult relationships, and power to simply put one foot in front of the other.

Jesus.  In that one single name, we have all the resurrection power we could ever need.

{Just close your eyes and whisper His name. Give yourself the grace to take a big breath and then breathe out grace. This is not all about you or me or them.  Jesus.  All for Him and from Him and through Him.  Jesus. Breathe Him in.}

I can't get the illusion of chains out of my head.  One line of the song says, "There's an army rising up.  To break every chain."  I think about the thick and heavy chains that Satan places on our wrists and minds and thought patterns and child-like souls.  I think about how there is power in the name of Jesus and how that power is all that is needed to break every single link of bondage.  And then I glory at God's ways of inviting His children into the process of ushering freedom into people's weary lives. 

There's an army rising up.  God wants to use us!  He doesn't have to but He invites us into the story of freedom and unconditional love.  He wants us to grace others as He has graced us.  He longs for us to be down on our knees with snotty faces, interceding for those who are slaves to Satan's ways. We don't have to pray for everyone or everything. All we have to do is be faithful to the one or few that the Holy Spirit places on our hearts. We choose to enter the battle on behalf of those who wear chains.  We do it because they are worth the battle. Jesus bled out because they (and you. and me.) are worth the battle.

There is nothing more endearing to me than when someone chooses to enter into my hard story.  When my sister died, I had complete strangers bring me food.  These people, six years later, have become very sweet friends.  I had a friend who would remember every single 13th of the month.  For years, she would swing by or call or bring a small gift or card.  She would sit on my couch and let me be in whatever phase of grief I was in, never rushing me.  Countless people chose to enter into my grief with me until they slowly saw all the chains fall off.  They were Jesus to me in those heart wrenching years of anguish.  I am forever grateful to God for all of them.

I keep going back to what our pastor said Sunday.  "Your personal Savior is the King of a Kingdom.  That Kingdom is invading.  That means war." 

We are at war.  We will be at war until that beautiful King sets up His beautiful reign.

Will you enter the battle?  Chains are ready to fall...

Monday, June 23, 2014


I opened the blinds to the bathroom window and stood, willing the moment to simply last.  The hot pink crepe myrtles had been kissed with rain and now danced in the golden last light of the day.  It was a moment that my heart needed and craved.  A moment of beauty.  I knew it would be fleeting like so many moments, so I willed it to last longer and stepped outside to take another peak.

Sometimes beauty just beckons. 

When those moments come, you have to place the crying ears-infected baby into your oldest baby's arms and leave the house. You promise yourself three minutes of beauty before it flees.

I flip flopped myself into the mud and questioned my sanity.  I tilted my iphone camera to the myrtle that beckoned and pressed the red button.  Captured.  For one moment in time, beauty was captured.  Remembered.

I tried to move my foot but came out of my flip flop.  At first, my responsible adult senses came flooding forth.  I just cleaned house.  I don't have time for this.  Another mess.  Why is the world so messy?  And then the glorious squish overcame any adult sense I had left. A huge smile overtook my frame and I found in myself something I had altogether forgotten about:  a child.

When was the last time I purposefully squished my feet into the mud? 

It is hard being an adult.  So much broken.  Broken marriages and broken dreams and broken bodies all begging for resurrection. 

As I suck down into the mire, I remembered that God knows our frame.  "For he knows our frame; He earnestly remembers and imprints on His heart that we are dust." Psalm 103:14

Even on my best day, I am simply watered down dust.  Mud.

What comfort that He knows our frail frame.  He knows it is hard to be us.  He knows our breaking points. He knows we are here one moment and gone the next, like the dandelion seeds at war with the wind.

In His covenant, He promises us something to help keep our heads afloat when the waves threaten our last gulp of air.  For those who fear and worship the One True God, His mercy and loving-kindness are from everlasting to everlasting.  Earth.  Heaven.  This home.  That better home. Those beautiful and comforting attributes simply won't stop, even when our hearts do.

I am but mud.  But God...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Such a strange emotion has filled my being.  It feels like the peace that comes either right before the storm or right before the miracle.  The calm is no doubt from countless people praying as well as from a surrendered (but still broken) heart. I pick at my cuticles and wonder which way this thing is going to fall.  Will God intervene and take away the cancer or will Asher never remember his Papa? I feel the clock ticking away, my mind willing it to just slow down. But God is sovereign over the clock.

This feeling reminds me of a book that I borrowed that I have refused to give back because there is one portion that I keep returning to.  It is just too good to paraphrase, so here it is, word for word.  Slow down your brain and soak it in.  Eugene Peterson (in Answering God) takes apart some of the Psalms.  In this one section, he talks about Psalm 4 and 5 and introduces a parallel I had never considered.  He talks about the biological need for sleep and how it is a spiritual surrender as well. He also gives practical instruction on how to face the day when we are awake.  Soak in these words.

"The work of God begins while we are asleep and without our help.  He continues to work through the day in our worship and obedience.  A sacrifice is the material means of assembling a life before God in order to let God work with it.  Sacrifice isn't something we do for God, but simply setting out the stuff of life for him to do something with.  On the altar the sacrificial offering is changed into what is pleasing and acceptable to God.  In the act of offering we give up ownership and control, and watch to see what God will do with it.  With a deep awareness that the God who speaks life into us also listens when we speak, we put into words the difficulties and delights that we foresee in the hours ahead.  We assemble fears and hopes, apprehensions and anticipations, and place them on the altar as an offering: "I prepare a sacrifice, and watch."

Watch is the pivotal work in morning prayer.  A biblically trained ear hears a story in the word.  Jacob, fleeing from his father-in-law, Laban, was caught in Gilead.  Laban thought he had been defrauded by Jacob; Jacob was sure he had been gypped by Laban.  In Gilead, through argument and prayer, they came to an agreement.  They set up an altar pillar and ate a covenantal meal before it.  They named the pillar, "Watching Place" (Mizpah.)  They had spent twenty years watching each other suspiciously, watching for opportunities to take advantage of each other.  Here they agreed to quit watching each other and let God watch them.  Early in the morning the two old antagonists parted--Laban returning to Haran and Jacob entering Canaan where he still had to face the enmity of his brother Esau--with their morning prayer echoing across the Gilead hills:  "The Lord watch between you and me, while we are absent one from the other."  Leaving the place of morning prayer and watching, the first things Jacob saw were the angels of God.  He exclaimed:  "This is God's army!" (Genesis 31.)

Mizpah is a borderline experience repeated as often as every morning.  We watch to see what God will do with the assemblage of hopes and fears we set before him.  Morning prayer places us before the watchful God and readies us to enter the day watchful, watching our dangerous past recede, watching the dangerous day fill with God's angels."

I can only speak for myself because we are all handling this tragic situation differently.  For me, I am in this state of mizpah.  Every morning, I surrender and proclaim that I will watch and see what God does with this. It is totally out of my hands and there is simply nothing I can do to manipulate or change the situation.  If I confess I serve a good God, then the best act of faith I can come up with is to step back and watch Him matter what that plan looks like.

I love the part that says we "watch to see what God will do with the assemblage of hope and fears we set before him."  How delighted He must be that we bring our whole selves to Him. His heart must be pricked with tenderness when we entrust the deepest parts of our souls into His care.

In some way or another, we are all waiting on something from the Lord.  Enter into your "watching place" and choose to see what God is doing.  He is always working on the behalf of his children.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Maturing Faith

{The below is a repost from something I wrote last year while doing battle with fear.  They are words I need to hear right now and I hope they are encouraging to you as well!}

Is God Really Enough? (Maturing Faith Part 1)
I've had a question on my mind the past few days.  I am going to ask you that question, as well.  I thought I would take this week and see if we can find the answers.  Join me for a few days as we delve into what maturing faith looks like.  Here is the question:

No matter what comes your way regarding heartache and circumstances, do you think it is simply enough to have God by your side?

That is the question I have been tossing around.  At some moments, I scream that there is no way that His mere presence is all I need.  In times of doubt, I look at my fledgling faith and can give you a list a hundred miles long of things that I would love to add to His abiding presence.

Today, we are going to take a peek into Matthew 8:23-27.  Put on your boat shoes and find your fishing tackle, cause we are taking a little ride today.

"And when he (Jesus) got into the boat, his disciples followed him.  And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep.  And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save us Lord; we are perishing.' And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?'"
Let's pick this little passage apart Lulu style, shall we?  Can I first say, that I feel like the disciples here?  In my current season of life, I feel like my faith is small.

The first thing I want to say to myself and perhaps to you is this:  The disciples had faith.  They would have never entered the boat to follow Jesus if they didn't have any faith.

The second thing is that as believers, we are going to be constantly bombarded with the storms of life.  The storms look differently, but they all reach inside of us and produce fear and terror. 

The third thing is that Jesus was asleep.  I can't tell you how many times in my walk that Jesus has been silent.  It isn't that I doubt his presence or think that he has abandoned me, but he is quite often content with least until it is the right time to speak.

The fourth thing is that Jesus asks them why they are afraid. This always blows my mind a little.  I mean, the Greek word for great storm is "seismos," which means "violent shaking or earthquake."  It is possible that this storm was greater than we ever pictured on the flannel-grams of our childhood days.  Well, of course they are afraid!  And yet, Jesus still asks them this question.  (His questions always get to the root of our fledgling faith.)

The fifth thing is that Jesus tells them they have "little faith."  He doesn't say they are faithless, but instead uses the Greek word "oligopistos" which means ineffective, deficient, or incredulous faith.  In other words, the disciples' faith lacked confidence.  Some might say that this means they had zero faith, but I beg to disagree, because, after all, they were willing to follow him into the boat in the first place and they also chose to wake him up as if he were their only hope.  There is a measure of relationship already established at this point, but God is getting ready to take them to higher faith (via a storm.)

The sixth thing is that Jesus calms the storm. I think that those with "little faith" sometimes need the storm to simply go away.  In this miraculous act, the disciples see their Jesus in a fresh way.  They marvelled at him.  God allowed them to see His son in a fresh way that brought about increasing faith and wonder.

Personally, I think that those with a more mature faith might not get to experience a calming of the storm itself.  Instead, they will experience a calming of their inner souls.  Because they know the secret:  It is simply enough to have Jesus in the boat with them.

God is always testing our faith because he wants us to know his tender heart towards us.

Pretend you are in the boat with Jesus himself.  The biggest waves are threatening to carry you off into the mysterious and cold unknown.  You frantically wake him up, knowing He is your only hope.  He peers into your eyes with such love and doesn't seem to be in a rush at all.  He then asks you a single question:  "Why are you afraid?"

He wants us to know that it is simply enough for Him to be with matter what is threatening.

Tomorrow, we will start to look at Psalm 23 and how we can spiritually get to a place where we have no fear of bad news.
Psalm 23 (Maturing Faith Part 2)
Yesterday, we talked about Jesus being enough no matter what comes our way.  Today, I want to take a peek at Psalm 23.  We will lay the groundwork by breaking down some of the words into the original Hebrew.  This will help us absorb truth tomorrow when we talk about walking through the valley of the shadow of death.

The best way I know to do this is to write out the passage and then comment on certain words as they come up. 

"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures
he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the "shadow of death" (tsalmaveth: very thick darkness, terror, calamity)
I will "fear" (yare:  fear or dread of what may go wrong) no evil:
for thou art with me
thy rod and thy staff, they "comfort" (nacham: console) me
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:
thou "anointest" (dashen:  to be fat, rich, mighty)
my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely "goodness" (towb: what is excellent, delightful, beautiful, joyful, fruitful, cheerful, kind, correct, right, and happy)
and "mercy" (checed:  God's loyal love, loving kindness,covenant, the attitude of love which contains mercy)
shall follow me all the days of my life:
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever."
Chew on those words for a little bit.  Tomorrow, I will meet up with you again and we will talk about what made David (the author of this passage) a man after God's heart.
For Thou Art With Me (Maturing Faith Part 3)
Yesterday, we broke down some of the Hebrew of Psalm 23.  Today, we will focus on a couple of things.  Have you ever wondered why God refers to David as "a man after my own heart?"  Personally, I think it can all be wrapped up in one phrase:  "I will fear no evil for thou art with me."

Such confidence in the Almighty.  David literally had to run for his very life from King Saul, and yet he says that he refuses to bow down to fear because he knows who his God is!

From yesterday, we learned that walking through the valley of the shadow of death can mean walking through any thick darkness.  Spurgeon says it like this, "One of the chief reasons of the gloom is the fact that this terrible pass is shrouded in mystery.  You do not know what the sorrow cannot grasp the foe."

Haven't you ever found yourself there?  It isn't that anyone has died, but there is a shadow of death that lingers and creeps into your very soul.  It is all consuming and yet, with the darkness, you sometimes don't even know what to name it!  The whole mystery of the matter is enough to suck the life out of you.

That is why I love the translation of "I will fear no evil."  It means that we can either fear or have dread of what MAY go wrong.  I don't know about you, but I can find myself drowning in what may go wrong in my life.  It is exactly where Satan wants us, too!

Spurgeon says we "suffer more in the dread of something that in the endurance of the stroke." 

I think the key is the same one we found in the Matthew passage regarding the disciples and the boat.  The key is this:  I don't have to fear because God is with me.

The question begs to arise again:  No matter what life throws my way, do I think that His presence is simply enough?

David would say it is.  After all, he says he doesn't fear because God is with him.

It is what makes him a man after God's own heart.  He is confident in who God is and he is confident that he belongs to God and that God has good (beautiful, right, joyful, fruitful...) things in store for him.

Tomorrow, we will talk about our Shepherd's rod and staff and why those two things can bring us comfort. We will talk about how to be calm in the prospect of a possible upcoming battle.
Rod and Staff (Maturing Faith Part 4)
Wow!  What does a life look like when it is so secure and confident in God that it simply does not fear?  I think it is a process, after all, we are going from "little faith" to a more "mature faith."

It is a life of knowing Jesus is on our side.  Believing He is pledged to help us.  Secure that He represents us and intercedes for us.  Confident that He has us hemmed in and surrounds us with His angels.

Mature faith is simply trusting the character of God. A person with mature faith can be steady in his journey.  He doesn't cower in fear or run ahead of God.  He is content to walk quietly along the path God has put him on.  He believes deep down that it is the very path that will lead him to know God's tender heart even more deeply.

The other morning, I woke up with the words "rod and staff" on my mind.  I repeated the phrase over and over again as I lay in bed..."thy rod and thy staff comfort me."  As I got up, I wondered just why a rod and a staff are so comforting.  The below is straight from Charles Spurgeon.

1.  Rod:  used for numbering the sheep.  It is comforting to know I am numbered along with the redeemed.  He knows me by name.

2.  Rod:  used for rule.  It is comforting to know He reigns in sovereignty.  Nothing can come across my path that He has not allowed or ordained. "Happy is the man who perceives the hand of God in everything."

3.  Rod/staff: used for guidance.  The rod leads us...often in a way that we would not have chosen on our own.  But, we can be assured that it is the safe and right way.  If He is our Guide, He is responsible for the road ahead.

4.  Rod/staff:  used for protection.  The rod and staff are used against the beasts of the field.  The shepherd assures us that we will not be torn apart by the enemy.  He does protect His elect.

5.  Rod/staff:  used to urge us onward.  We might stay in the same place forever, refusing growth, but instead, He gives us a divine nudge toward new heights.

Each of us can find comfort in our Lord's rod and staff.  We can choose to rest in the fact that we know He will bring us to the other side.  The valley of the shadow won't last forever.
Steadfast and Mature (Maturing Faith Part 5)
Today I want to wrap up this series on maturing faith and say this:

In order for your faith to mature, you will experience testing and trials.

I know, I know!  Not what any of us want to hear!

I love what our pastor said last Sunday.  He said Satan comes to steal our faith, but God comes to steel it. 

Our small bible study group spent three weeks studying the life of Joseph.  Imagine our delight when our pastor started teaching it a few weeks ago.  We knew that he would only bring forth more truth, despite how hard we dug into the Word.

Jesus is always calling us to a clearer understanding of who He is.  I think the whole point is that one day, we can say..."Even though (fill in the blank)...I will not fear (fill in the blank)...because God is with me."

His goal is for His presence to be sweetly sufficient for all our days.

Joseph's life demonstrates this.  He was thrown in a pit by his brothers.  He was thrown into another pit (dungeon/jail) after being wrongfully accused of something.  Despite interpreting a dream correctly, he was forgotten and left in the pit even longer.

Sometimes, we find ourselves in a pit and it was no sin on our part that got us there.

Will we be faithful even in those times?  Are we confident in God's heart towards us enough to sustain us?

I absolutely love this quote by Joyce Baldwin.  I think she wraps up this week quite nicely.  Savor her words....I saved the best for last!

"It was as if he alone (Joseph) had been abandoned by God.  But experiences like this were often part of the training of those whom God was going to use in outstanding roles.  Abraham and Sarah had to wait until old age for the birth of Isaac; Moses was exiled for much of his life in an inhospitable desert; David lived under threat of death at the hand of Saul and was on the run for months, if not years.  Yet in every case the purpose of God was being worked out and in due course came to fruition.

Indeed it has been said that only those with faith in God experience his testing, which after all is self evident, for it is designed to put steel into faith so that it becomes steadfast and mature (Jas. 1:2-4) and can testify to the tender love of the Lord in designing the suffering.  This was to be outstandingly true of Joseph, who was fully aware of his brothers' hatred but who saw that God had meant it for good. That is the kind of conviction that results from patient, enduring trust in the loving intentions of God, when outward circumstances seem to belie that love."

from "The Message Genesis 12-50"

{Thanks for being on this faith-journey with you all!}

Tuesday, June 3, 2014


This morning after trying once again my hand (or, ahem, legs) at running, I plopped my weary and sweaty self on the front porch steps.  I looked over at the gerbera daisies making their appearance and God gently reminded me of a truth I learned a couple of years ago. 

God makes provision for your needs even before you have needs.

Seeds. He is always going before us, planting seeds.

In Genesis, days before He created man, God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.  And it was so.  The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind.  And God saw that it was good."

Before God lovingly formed man and breathed life into clay, He made sure that every single necessary provision for the longevity and blessing of mankind was in place.

Perhaps that seems like a no brainer, but do we apply it to our daily circumstances? 

We have a crest of our family name hanging on the wall.  It says, Domini Nostri Praebenda.  The Lord Jesus is our Provision.

He is our provision for daily bread, salvation, mercy during trials, and rest.  We have absolutely nothing without Him. Not even a single breath.

Going forward with this anguishing word called cancer, I know God wants to remind us that whatever we need has already been provided.  The seeds have been planted and the earth is already bringing forth vegetation. We are walking blindly through a dark tunnel, but God is promising that He is already there, providing the right doctors and right treatment.  He is already there, providing friends to pray for us and hold our hands.  He is already there, allowing portions of scripture to jump off the pages and into our weary souls.  He is Jehovah Shammah.  He is there.  And the provision has all been taken care of.  Perhaps the most humbling and beautiful part of it all is that He was planting seeds for our needs before we even knew that we would have such a great need.

What a merciful and good God.

Monday, June 2, 2014

37. The Saddest Birthday Ever.

I am 37 today.  I praise God for knitting me in my mother's womb, placing me in a Godly family, and breathing eternal life into my dead soul. I praise Him for His lavish display of affection on my life including four amazing boys. I marvel at His Word that is alive and His Holy Spirit that shows me things about my sweet Jesus.  I take joy in the simple things including Mexican food shared with friends and Pure Grace body lotion.  I surrender the rest of my days and pray that He blesses the latter days even more than the beginning ones.

But today my heart has been absolutely shattered.

My father in law, Herb, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.  It has spread to his pelvis, stomach, back, femur, and arm.  We knew last Thursday we were facing cancer, but we had hopes that it wouldn't be so advanced.

If you know him at all, you know he is a great father, proud Papa, wise counselor, amazing Bible teacher, and grace giver.  He will accept you as you are but loves you enough to not let you stay there.  To say I love and respect this man would be a total understatement.

We have had hard words thrown at us through the years.  Suicide.  Miscarriage.  Cancer.  These circumstances have rocked us to the core and definitely put our theology to the test.  Through the years, I have learned that it is God who holds us.  We can beat on His chest in anger as snot runs down our faces, and we can doubt His goodness, but He holds our relationship in tact. Faith is a gift and it is God that keeps giving it when life throws the curve balls.

With surrendered hearts, Eric and I are choosing to praise God in this storm.  We have had countless scripture passages telling us to enter into this battle and fight.  We have no promises that the fight will lead to healing while on this earth, but we believe the fight will definitely point to God's glory. 

We are reminded of Job and what he proclaimed after sores had overtaken his body: "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"

I believe that disease is of the Enemy but I also believe that God is sovereign over everything and that nothing and I mean nothing passes into our lives without His permission and power.  I believe God's participating presence is in everything and I believe He is good, even when His definition of good doesn't line up with my own.  I believe His voice is so powerful that He can simply say, "BE GONE!" and the cancer would flee.  I keep muttering the Hebrew word, "pala" and beg God to do something so wonderful and amazing that we can't even begin to understand it.  But, I also know I worship a God who sent His very own beloved Son to die on the cross for something that didn't make sense to all the onlookers.  His ways are so much higher than ours.  I bow down only to Him.

He is our only hope.

We covet your prayers for peace and mercy and strength as we enter into this battle.