February 18, 2014
I realize it’s bold, but it’s the way the conversation started…
“Are you a Christian?” I asked.
His answer caught me a little off guard. “Yes,” he said with his head down. “My wife has always been deeply religious, too. I don’t generally tell people this, but years ago she had two abortions and she has never really forgiven herself.”
My heart sank. Empathy ripped through my soul.
“Have you?” I replied.
He glanced up at me with a look of guilt no eighty-five year old man should have to bear. “No, I guess I never really have.” (Pause.) “I could have stopped them, you know?”
A flood of emotions ran through me. Immediately, I was transported in my mind to the morning just a few weeks ago when I stood in church, hands lifted high singing, “My every stain is washed away. I am forgiven.”
Clearly, this man did not understand what “forgiven” truly meant.
Instead of receiving genuine forgiveness, he chose to carry the heavy weight of guilt that comes with a decision such as this —for over sixty years. Rather than receiving forgiveness from the only One who can wash the stain away, this man and his wife bore this burden of sin on their shoulders. All. These. Years.
Standing next to him, tears streamed down my cheeks. I wept… Just as Jesus weeps when we refuse to accept the free gift He has given us- forgiveness of our sins.
When Christ died, He died for ALL of our sins. Not just the ones we can admit to. He died for the ones we are ashamed of. The ones no one else knows about. The sins we have carried for years and years. Like this man. And his wife.
Mathew 11:28-30 says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
I don’t know what you are going through. Or what you have done. But forgiving yourself is a choice that only you can make. Don’t waste another minute holding on to unforgiveness toward yourself.
Before you ever asked. Before you ever sinned, Christ forgave you.
For the abortion. For the divorce. For the abandonment. For the abuse. For the words. For the thoughts. For the actions. He has forgiven you… For everything you have ever done and everything you will ever do.
The only one left remembering… Is you.
Where is MY Valentine?
February 14, 2014
Psalm 31:14-15, But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say, “You are my God.” My times are in your hands.”
For years, the mere thought of Valentine’s Day made me want to cry. The best solution my love sick heart could think of for dealing with this dreaded day– was to curl up in bed and sleep– for at least a week. Of course, that was unrealistic. So, instead, I rode the rollercoaster of emotions brought on by this February day. Every year.
I had spent years longing to meet the love of my life. I watched one friend sail off into wedded bliss after another. Some were starting families. Others were traveling to exotic places with their new hubbies. But, I… was still home. Single and alone.
Then, a couple weeks before V-day, 2000, in walked Tom… I felt a spoonful of hope rise up on the inside of me. “Maybe he – is him. Maybe this is the man I have spent hours and hours praying for. Maybe he is the one I have been waiting all these years to meet. Could this year be the end of my single life?”
I hoped so.
It only took a couple of dates to discover that though Tom was a very nice guy, he definitely was not the man I had been dreaming about. Of course, relating “he just isn’t the one,” was not reason enough for my friends and family to accept. So I came up with a excuse not to like him. I distinctly remember telling my sister –“He’s a great guy. But… he drives a ‘car’. And he… isn’t a good golfer.”
That’s all you’ve got?
To complicate things, as I grabbed my keys to leave the office on Valentine’s Day, there sat a dozen lavender roses on my desk. From Tom. My face smiled, but my insides turned.
“What is the matter with me?” I thought. “Here is this great guy- who is kind and thoughtful. Nice looking and a good dresser. He is a good conversationalist and even has a good job. Now, he has sent you flowers on this dreaded holiday. And the best you can come up with is ‘He drives a car and isn’t a good golfer.’”
“What is wrong with me?”
“Am I afraid of commitment?”
“Should I settle for someone who is good, but not great, to me?”
“Am I looking for something that doesn’t exist?”
Thought after thought ran through my mind. After all, I wasn’t getting any younger. My clock was ticking and time felt very short.
“Where are you, God?”
“What is taking so long?”
“Am I going to be single? Forever?”
It was another two years before I met my husband. In that time, God did an amazing work in me. I became a great wife. To a man I had never met.
I learned how to not sweat the small stuff. I learned how to get off of the roller coaster and live an emotionally stable life. I learned the art of living one day at a time with a hope and expectation for a brighter future. I learned patience. I learned perseverance. I learned self-discipline. I learned how to depend on God in ways I never needed to before. I learned how to trust Him with my heart’s desires. I learned of His faithfulness and unfailing love. I learned how to appreciate – in an extremely intense way – the husband I did not yet know… All of which have had a huge impact on my life. My husband’s life. My children’s lives. And the lives of my grand and great-grandchildren who have not yet been born.
My waiting was not in vain.
Through those years of waiting, I learned that God’s timing is perfect. That His promises are true. And that when you entrust your life and dreams to the Maker of the Universe, the Maker of the Universe moves heaven and earth for you.
If you had asked me back then, “Are you ready?”, my answer would have been emphatically “YES!” When I look back now, I know that is not the truth.
I am the wife I am today because of the work God did in me through those years of waiting. So, this Valentine’s Day, I exhort you… Your waiting is not in vain. Your day will come. You are a bride… whether you have met your groom yet or not.
February 12, 2014
Psalm 139:14, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
When my husband and I pulled into the driveway with our realtor that Wednesday morning, I couldn’t help but wonder why two elementary-aged children were playing outside on a school day.
At the time, many families from our church were choosing to forego the public school system and begin home schooling their children. So, before our daughter started kindergarten, my husband and I discussed the possibility. I spent months praying about where to send our children to school. In the end, we concluded, “Homeschooling may be the Christian thing to do. It’s just not the Christian thing for us to do.”
Now, pulling into the driveway, just six months into kindergarten, we were buying a house next to a home schooling mom. “Ahhhh!!!” I let out a shrill scream on the inside. “Lord, I hope you are not planning to move me here in order to get me homeschooling my children.
It didn’t happen.
1. I have absolutely zero desire to home school my children. (And I personally believe that when you entrust your life to the Lord, He makes your heart line up with His plan.)
2. The thought of staying home with my children all day, every day, makes me cringe.
3. Even though I love my kids with everything I am, I need time away from them – to be me.
4. Have you ever tried taking four kids to the grocery store? Need I say more?
5. Remember #1…
To me, it would be ridiculous to try to take on something that I have absolutely no desire to do? Wouldn’t you agree? Yet with all of the reasons as to why home schooling is not right for me, I spent a fair amount of time contemplating if it was something I should do.
Why do we do that?
I thought peer pressure was something that only kids get caught up in? Why do we, as adults, feel a pressing need to please other people? To keep up with the Jones’? To do a certain thing just because somebody else is doing it? Why do we try to be someone (or do something) we are not?
The Lord created each of us in His image. Unique. Special. Beautiful. Wonderful. To serve His purpose in our very own, distinctive way. He created you… To Be You… The best you, you can be. So, if for you – that means home schooling your kids. Home school your kids. If for you – that means working outside the home. Work outside the home. If for you – it means being a stay-at-home mom. Be the best stay-at-home mom you can be.
In order to live out your potential, you can’t do what is right for someone else. You have got to do what is right for you! (And if what was right for you then, isn’t right anymore. Then change it… Be You.)The Lord doesn’t want a carbon copy of someone else. He wants you. With all your quirks and idiosyncrasies. With your creativity and exuberance. Your successes and failures. He wants you…To Be You!
Stop trying to be someone you are not.
Write your own story.
No one can write it quite like you.
February 7, 2014
Psalm 25:4, “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.”
I pray about everything. It is a part of who I am. Big things. Little things. And everything in between. I pray.
I pray. Because without guidance from My Heavenly Father, I would be lost. I know, because for years I didn’t pray much. I only considered the Lord when it was convenient for me. When I needed help. Like – when I had a really big decision to make, was in trouble or wanted protection as I drove home with drunk people. (I know it’s terrible. But it’s the truth.)
In all honesty, I hardly considered the Lord. I went my own way. And I ended up dissatisfied with my life. So I asked God for help. And help, he did.
I learned quickly that without prayer, I wander aimlessly. But when I pray, He shows me the way to go…
Towards the beginning of 2013, I began to notice some singing talent in my daughter Aspen. But, because I am musically void, I did not know if her voice was actually pretty or if I was just hearing beauty – from the heart of a mama. (If you’ve seen even one episode of American Idol, you know what I mean.)
I needed direction. So, I made this simple request to the Lord.
“Lord, I need help knowing what direction to encourage Aspen in. I don’t want to push her on a path that is not your plan for her. Direct my steps. And help me direct hers.”
In May, while playing at the beach, Aspen very nonchalantly mentioned, “Pastor Ray said I would lead worship from the stage one day. Did you tell him I wanted to lead worship, Mommy?”
“No, actually I haven’t told anyone.” I said. “Did you?”
“No,” she replied.
Later that week, I emailed my pastor and he confirmed. Yes. He had said those things.
Wow. The very prayer I whispered in my quiet time was being answered through someone who knew nothing of the situation. And – in an amazing way. I stood in awe of the Lord.
Then. As if that wasn’t enough. The Lord confirmed it again, last night.
A man I’d never seen before greeted me in the hall, handed me a Kari Jobe CD and said, “Your daughter has such a pure heart. She is going to lead worship one day. I see her as someone like – Kari Jobe.”
When I asked him what made him say such a thing, he simply stated, “The Lord told me.”
My eyes filled with tears. I didn’t think he was weird or crazy or anything else. I simply know it was confirmation -for the second time – on what direction I am to lead my daughter in. It was an answer to a prayer whispered in the quiet – Important to me. Important to God.
I haven’t told you these things to say what an amazing voice my daughter has. On the contrary, it still needs much refining.
My reason for sharing this story is simple – To remind you that we serve an amazing God. One who hears the heart of His children; Who answers the prayers we cry out in secret; And directs the steps of those who are humble enough to ask.
February 4, 2014
Ecclesiastes 12:1, “Honor and enjoy your Creator while you are still young, before the years take their toll and your vigor wanes.”
Life is short. I know that. We are not guaranteed tomorrow. I know that, too. But somehow in the busyness of every day, I tend to forget – I was created for a purpose…
For me, it was an ordinary Monday morning. I was caught up in my daily adventure of packing lunchboxes, tying shoes and rushing kids out the door for school. In my bubble, the world was small. Then I walked into work. Suddenly, my bubble burst and the world enlarged around me. My adventure became much more important.
I met Mr. Johnson, a handsome man with crystal blue eyes, at the hospital just days before Christmas. In a short amount of time, I learned a lot about him. As far as the world is concerned, he was a successful man. He had been married to the same woman for many years, had an expanding family and a respectable career. To the natural eye, he looked and sounded healthy. But with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, I had a vague knowing that despite how things looked on the outside, his days were numbered.
It’s amazing the things we assume looking at the outside of a person. But, when we get to the end of our life, it is what’s on inside that truly matters. This my soul knows very well. So rather than focus on the outside, that December afternoon I chose to go deeper. To probe into the heart of this man.
“Did Mr. Johnson know the one thing that matters?”
As I shared the love of Christ with him, he simply shrugged his shoulders without any outward acknowledgement of the things I said. I left the room wondering, “Could this man possibly be a Christian? Had my words had any influence?”
Ten minutes later, those words were lost. For me, anyway. Mr. Johnson went home. And in the hustle and bustle of life, I never gave the conversation another thought.
Until Friday afternoon, that is. As I walked into a different room at the same hospital, there staring back at me were those same crystal blue eyes. Only this time, there was little life left in them.
“Hello.” Mr. Johnson, I said. “Do you remember me?” It took all the strength he had for the smooth talking gentleman I met earlier that month to let out a quiet, “Yes.”
For the first time in three weeks, my mind went back to the day we met and the uncertainty of our conversation. Once again, I found myself talking to him about his relationship with Christ. This time, however, there was a deeper sense of urgency. When I asked him if he was a Christian, he shrugged his shoulders in the same fashion. Only this time, he added, “Yes… I guess.”
“Yes. I guess?”… What did that mean?
Come to find out – Mr. Johnson had asked Christ to be His Savior, but never truly lived his life for Him. Now, as his days were winding down, he seemed to be questioning the life he lived and the uncertainty of his future.
So. One last time. I did my best to help this man know that he was loved, accepted, and forgiven by the Savior of the world. Then I left the room once again.
I had done my part.
Christ did His 2014 years ago.
The rest… was up to Mr. Johnson.
When I arrived at work Monday morning, I learned that our conversation was one of his last. Two days after our conversation, Mr. Johnson’s adventure came to an end.
Selah. (That means ‘pause and reflect on that’.)
January 30, 2014
Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
As I sang the words to this beautiful song this past Sunday morning at the place my soul is fed, my eyes filled with tears.
“I am forgiven at the foot of the Cross.
I am accepted by the power of your love.
My every stain is washed away.
I am forgiven.”
MY… EVERY?… STAIN… IS WASHED AWAY.
As I stood in His presence, hands lifted high and heart bowed low, His peace washed over me.
I repeated the phrase.
I AM FORGIVEN.
The words sank through me.
I AM FORGIVEN.
His love pierced the deepest parts of me.
I AM FORGIVEN.
This isn’t a concept, I don’t know. It is one of the foundational principles of a Christian’s life. Not only have I sinned in my life, but – I do sin. On a regular basis… I sin. Every day… I sin. It is a fact. Sin dwells in me. And no matter how hard I try to fight it, I fail. A lot. I wish it weren’t so. But it is. It is a cold hard fact.
I am a sinner.
As I stood in worship, this gripping fact came to the broad surface of my heart.
And yet, even at my worst, His love covered me. In the midst of my sin, Christ died for me. He chose me. Knowing my every weakness, He redeemed me. Being profoundly aware of the choices I would make and all the years I would reject Him, He chose to love me anyway. To love me, in spite of me.
Standing in the second row of the sanctuary with closed eyes and a wide open heart, I saw it. A picture of His love pouring over me. Like water gushing over the edge of a waterfall, His love washed away my filth.
His love has washed yours away, too.
There on the cross, beaten and bruised, rejected and despised, He bore it all. Your pain. Your suffering. He bore it. So you wouldn’t have to. Because – He loves you.
Before you were ever born, the Lord called you by name. Understanding how angry you would be at Him, He died for you. Knowing that you would reject Him, He accepted you. Fully aware of all your shortcomings and faults, He forgave you.
YOUR… EVERY!… STAIN…WAS WASHED AWAY.
YOU ARE FORGIVEN.
No matter how far you run, the Lord will never stopped pursuing you. No matter how far off course you get, the Lord has a plan to bring you back. No matter what you have done in the past, He forgives you.
He loves you, in spite of you. In spite of every wrong choice. In spite of every ounce of sin. In spite of all the ugliness that lives inside your filth-stained heart, He loves you. He has chosen you.
YOU ARE FORGIVEN.
Faith in Action
January 28, 2014
James 1:25, “…Being not hearers who forget, but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing.”
One day life is normal. The next, completely different.
In reality, nothing has changed. Nothing, except our perception, that is. Suddenly, cold water is splashed in our face and our eyes are released to recognize something new. Something that has been there all along. But until that moment, we couldn’t see it.
One Saturday morning last fall I woke up to a whole new world of faith. It started with a dream. But this dream – was no ordinary dream. It was one that made me stop in my tracks.
In my sleep, an elderly gentleman was speaking the Word of God to a crowd sitting in a grassy field. At the end of his message, the group watched intently as the elderly gentleman’s body began to float through the air as if he were flying. Moments later, he drifted directly into a live power pole. Unscathed, the man continued floating through the air.
This gentleman, so full of the Word of God, was not subject to natural laws.
As my mind tried to consider this possibility, someone from the crowd looked me straight in the eye and boldly questioned, “What if the life you are living is really subnorm? What if… you are living below your design?”
My eyes shot open. The dream was over.
While I have always considered myself to be strong in the realm of faith, this dream made me question the degree to which I had been believing for years. “What if the life I am living is really subnorm? What if I am living and believing below the standard that the Lord designed me to live?”
Over the next few months, I set out on a mission. Not to only speak faith-filled words as I had for years, but to live – fully embracing and acting – on the truth of the Word of God that is not subject to natural laws.
But… What does this type of faith look like?
As I began asking the Lord how to practically apply action to my faith in everyday life, a small list of unanswered prayers came to mind. At the top of the list was a prayer I had prayed for Shawna, one of my best friends. Together, we had been standing in faith for her future husband for many, many years.
“Lord, what can I do for Shawna?” I asked.
Immediately, I had an idea. I would give her a pair of pajamas with the word, “BRIDE” striped across the front – as an act of faith – to show her that I was standing in 100% agreement with her and the word of God. (It does say, “If you delight yourself in the Lord, He will give you the desires of your heart,” you know. And delight in the Lord, she did.)
Last August, as I handed her the gift, I declared, “Shawna, you are a bride!”
Immediately, she embraced this truth and began wearing the pj’s to bed almost every night. As she brushed her teeth, staring at the word, “BRIDE” across her chest, she would declare, “I AM a BRIDE.”
On October 24th, just two month later, she met Joe, the man we had been praying years for. June 28th they will become husband and wife, less than one year from the day we put our faith into action.
Hmmm… Coincidence? After more than ten years? I think not.
Could it be that His children are believing for far less than the Lord has for us?
Could we actually be living below the standard the Lord intended for you and me?
What if we lived a life of faith in action?
What if this is what normal is supposed to look like?
In July 2015, Shawna and Joe welcomed Isabel Grace- another answered prayer!
Children of The King
January 24, 2014
Matthew 6:19, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal…”
Two chairs over sat a young couple sipping margaritas and munching on chips and salsa. They looked perfectly put together. He had a perfect smile. She had perfectly colored hair. His pants were perfectly pressed. Her nails, perfectly French.
“Look at the size of the rock on her finger,” I said to my husband as we lounged by the pool.
“She may have a big diamond,” my husband replied, “but I am sure she is not near as happy as we are.”
I can always count on him to keep it real.
As I glanced around the Waldorf – Naples, where we were staying, I couldn’t help but wonder why anyone in the world would spend $300 to $700/night to stay at a hotel like this. Sure, the view was beautiful and the pool was heated. But for the most part it looked like any other hotel I’ve stayed in for half the price.
“So, how many of these people do you think earned a free hotel stay like us?” I asked my husband in jest.
“Umm… None,” he replied.
Sitting in the midst of such worldly riches made me reflect… How many people long for days like these? To rub elbows with the wealthy. To sip margaritas pool side. To reside in a large, lavish home or drive a Rolls Royce.
“If only I had… If only I could… If only I was…”
None of these things bring true happiness. It only takes one look into Hollywood to recognize this truth. Yet for some reason, riches such as these call our names. As if lounging by the pool at the Waldorf will bring value to who we are.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding every person staying at the hotel this January afternoon. Maybe they are in debt up to their eyeballs. Maybe they saved for years to spend one weekend in luxury. Or maybe they have earthly riches beyond anything I will ever know.
I am certainly not suggesting you can’t be happy if you have an abundance of wealth or a flashy ring on your finger. But this I know… Having riches doesn’t buy happiness. Big diamonds don’t add one cent to a person’s worth. And value is a gift from God that every person was born with whether we recognize it or not. Simply because.
We are all… Children of The King.
January 21, 2014
Psalm 33:12, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
“Emma said the hotels in Paris are not very nice,” my oldest daughter, Aspen, remarked as we cruised around town in the metallic blue mini-van I swore I’d never own.
“Well,” I responded. “The one I stayed at wasn’t near as nice as those we have in the United States, either. But it sure cost a lot of money,” I said.
“Why is that, Mommy?”
Being the “always looking for a teachable moment” mommy that I am, it didn’t take long for me to turn this run of the mill conversation into a learning experience.
Of course, I couldn’t recall the scripture reference off the top of my head, but I began explaining anyway.
“The reason America is such a blessed nation is simple. When the United States was formed, it was built on the principles of the Lord Jesus Christ. ‘In God We Trust’ was stamped on our money, the Ten Commandments were posted in our schools, and the flag that hangs over the capital building was designed to represent ‘One Nation Under God.’ Our founding fathers made the Lord top priority. Not only did they offer up prayer before meetings, but they actually sought the Lord for hours before making big decisions. The first Americans knew that without the intervention of the Lord Jesus Christ… The United States of America was destined to fail.”
“When the Revolutionary War began, the United States was scarcely a nation. According to all natural laws, with limited resources and an untrained military, we should have lost the war against Britain. But we didn’t. We won. And now, we are simply living out the fulfillment of the scripture and reaping the blessings ‘of a nation whose God is Lord.’”
As I was explaining these truths to my daughter, it dawned on me…
Americans today owe the blessings of our nation to the principles of Jesus Christ as administered by our forefathers of old. We are merely reaping the results of their seeds planted hundreds of years ago.
The United States of America is blessed beyond imagination because the Lord is our God. But the average American doesn’t even recognize a correlation between the two. Knowing this, I can’t help but wonder what America will look like in the future once Christ is taken out of our schools, off of our money and out of the pledge… If America looks like this now because of what they did years ago, what will America look like fifty years from now because of what we do today?
A Light Affliction?
January 16, 2014
2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment…”
Torturous. That is how it feels. Every moment is painstaking. And it happens most every night of the week.
From the instant I mention the word, my extremely talented, fun-loving seven year old son turns into a mini-monster. He starts to grumble. Tears fall from his big green eyes. Pent up frustrations spew from his lips. He just wants to play. He wants to run. Ride his bike. Throw a ball. Watch t.v. Anything to escape the arduous task…
The night is different, but the scenario is the same. I have relived this episode night after night for three years now. And, truth is, even with prayer— The situation itself, hasn’t changed all that much.
I hate to admit it, but second grade is hard for him. When I lay it all out there, first grade and kindergarten were no different.
It seems much harder than it ought to be. And I am tired of hard. I don’t want life to have such trying times. I want it to be easy. I want to it be fun, all the time. I want it to run smoothly, without interruptions. Especially, the ones that repeat themselves over and over again.
The longer I live, however, the more I am reminded… Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes it is hard. Sometimes there are interruptions I’d rather not deal with. Often, the interruptions last longer than I want them to. But, always. When I gain the right perspective – The affliction is really rather light.
What, really, is a whiny kid in the midst of a lost and dying world?… If my son spells “they” – “thay” until he is twenty-five. Will it really matter?… If he never reads above grade-level, will his life be any less purposeful?… Is his potential to fulfill the Lord’s call limited by his standardized test score?
It really is a light affliction. And if I believe God’s Word, it is only for a moment. Before I blink my eyes, these moments will be gone. My small green-eyed boy will be a tall green-eyed man. And so I will wish for such a light affliction, once again. Even, if for but a moment.