The Rose

My Daddy taught me to love gardening and I think of him every year around Valentine’s Day.  Why? A couple of reasons. One is that he always brought me the first Narcissus bloom around this time. As we reminisced about that, I told mom that I was sorry he didn’t bring them to her and she simply said, “Never!” I guess he knew how much I loved them and how many memories they carried from my childhood. A simple gesture of love, really.  

The other reason is that he never let me forget that roses need to be pruned around February 14th.  I forget lots of things that he taught me about gardening, but never that.  No matter what the weather, the  clippers come out this time of year and I start chopping away.  I’m really not knowledgeable enough to do a great job, but I listen to his voice in my head saying, “You have to cut it back more than you think but not so much that it can’t survive.”

Daddy was a preacher. Even when he wasn’t preaching. 

This year, as I studied the branches that were crossing, crowded areas that needed more sun and dead branches that wouldn’t survive, I carefully clipped. “Carefully” because those thorns never fail to get me.  No matter how careful I am, my hands are poked, scratched and bleeding by the end of the day.  But that’s the price you pay for a healthy plant and beautiful roses in a few more months.  

Roses…the symbol of love this time of year.  As people are paying lots of money for a dozen roses to give to someone they love, I’m cutting back a plant that looks like it may not survive.  And I feel it’s pain. 

Deeper than any other year of pruning…I feel every snip of the clippers. I feel the doubt that it will produce a flourishing plant full of blooms that bring joy and color to the world. I feel the fear that I’m cutting so much that it’s simply going to give up and die. 

And I wonder if God is doing too much pruning for my heart to handle. 

Will I come out of this healthier?  More fruitful? Beautiful? 

I have to trust that the master gardener knows what he’s doing better than my daddy did.  I have to trust in the truth that I’ve always seen these roses come back to life.  In fact, that’s why I love spring. Because it’s a living lesson that life comes after death in this world…and in my heart. In God’s economy, it ALWAYS does.

I make a conscious decision to surrender to his hands and to his wisdom.  I can’t understand the ways of God but I do understand that he loves me. He knows my heart. He knows my need. And he knows where we are headed. So, if he’s doing the delicate work of pruning in my life, he’s doing it with a plan in mind.  Even when I can’t see it, I can trust that his goal is to have a fruitful plant that brings love and beauty into his world. Even when I become prickly and fight back against the process, he gently whispers to my heart and moves me forward  at a pace I can handle.

Looking at this rose bush, I’m concerned that it looks lifeless and has suffered a traumatic loss, but God encourages me that he has created a world that will bring abundance and beauty as it (and I) simply receive what He provides. It all comes from his hand.  It’s all grace.  It’s all love.  And the thorns and cutting and death of the season will only produce more beauty and love to share in the next.   

So, Lord…let it be.



Someone asked me a question today. Where is Jesus when you pray?

A simple question but one that could have multiple layers to the answer.

Is he next to me as I pray?  Across the room looking and listening? Nowhere to be found? On a throne next to his Father? Hanging on a cross? Within my heart? Do we even think he exists?

I have to confess that He’s usually on a thrown in my mind’s eye. I’ve tried to picture his face for years but my eyes have only lifted far enough to see his hands. Hands that wiped my tears with tenderness and compassion.  More often than not, I can’t even lift my face from the ground. Sometimes I wonder why I’m bowing? 

Is it fear? Worship? Adoration? Humility? Awe? Reverence? Shame?

The question posed to me tonight was followed by the theory that we can often find Jesus in the part of our heart that longs to be loved or to feel love. 

Part of me gets that because God is love.  I believe that to be true. But, part of me questions it because our view of love can be – well – questionable.

As I sat in the darkness of the evening and wondered, “Where are you, Jesus?”, I remembered the times that he’s been my friend when I was alone. A warrior when I was being attacked. My hero when I needed a miracle. A comforter when my heart was broken. Strong arms that held me when I couldn’t stand. My provider when I was in need. The savior who stopped me, or saved me, before I made choices that could never be undone and the one who healed me even when I did.

He’s always been here…in my life…surrounding me and walking with me even when I didn’t see it. He’s always been caring for me. He’s always been my grace.

But where do I see him now?  Mostly, at a distance, if I’m honest.  Maybe only a few feet away but far enough that he could turn away if he decided to. 

So how does that fit with my desire to be loved? Am I afraid it won’t last?

And then it hit me.

Here’s the raw, honest truth.

 I miss Steve.

I miss how his eyes lit up every time I walked out of the room after getting dressed to go somewhere. I miss being told how beautiful and smart he thought I was. I miss his encouragement that I had more to offer than I believed I did. I miss holding hands, hugging, and kissing every chance we had. I miss falling asleep on his shoulder each night. I miss watching him cutting down trees and riding the tractor. I miss his stupid jokes. I miss worshipping with him. I miss how happy my girls were when he was around even when they made me mad. I miss hearing him say “I love you” multiple times every day.  I miss how he always left glasses on the counter. I miss how he OVER BUILT everything! I miss how much he loved dogs but never seemed to wash or brush them. I miss doing everything I could to convince him of how much I loved him. I miss writing love notes when he went out of town and putting them in his suitcase. I miss the flowers he brought me. I miss making his favorite foods. I miss eating pizza, drinking wine and having long conversations. I miss how he would stand on the dance floor with me just so I could dance while he smiled at how silly I was.  I even miss the arguments we had because we knew one thing above all else. 

He had chosen me and I had chosen him.  When things fell apart and there was little love to be found, we chose it anyway.

The greatest picture that I’ve ever had of my Jesus suddenly came to my heart. Maybe because of where I am in life but, regardless, it took my breath away.   

There he was…standing with Steve, through Steve, in Steve…on our wedding day. 

Steve looked at me with innocent eyes that couldn’t have known the things that we would face.  Jesus stood there knowing every rejection, sin and pain I would cause but loving me anyway.

Steve looked at me with tears of joy believing that I was beautiful and “out of his league.” (We all know that was the other way around.) Jesus had tears of joy because I would allow Him to love me regardless of every insecurity and fear hiding in my soul.

Steve placed a ring on my finger and promised to love me until death parted us. Jesus carved my name on his hand and promised that death would have no power over love at all.

None at all.

Steve said “I do” and kissed me when my dad asked “Do you take this woman to be your wife?”Jesus said “I did before the beginning of time” when his Father asked, “Will you give up everything so she can be your bride” and then he breathed life into my soul and made his home in my heart.

How I long to live in the knowledge of that kind of love. The kind of love that strengthens me, builds faith, grounds and establishes my heart, empowers my life and fills me with more hope and promise than I could ever imagine.

I think that’s what I see tonight as I close my eyes and try to rest in his love.  I see him standing before me, eyes clear and full of love, placing a ring on my finger and telling everyone that I am His. He has chosen me. No matter what. Forever and always.  I AM HIS.

Maybe I’ll look in his eyes tonight.  Fully and without fear. Maybe I’ll see that he sees me.  Fully and without judgement. Maybe I’ll know that he knows me. Fully and with more love than I could ever comprehend. 

Those eyes may look a bit like Steve’s but I don’t think he’ll mind. After all, if we can know his love more, live from his love fully and  share his love daily, maybe others can find the truth that they are chosen too.  Loved deeply. And treasured above all else. 

What better call and purpose could there ever be?

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-21

Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™


(Repost from August 2012. God is kind to remind me of who He is…and whose I am.)

As a runner,  I have four formidable enemies.

A headwind kicks my butt. There are days I get dressed for a run only to walk outside, feel a breeze and turn around to head straight for the treadmill.

Hills, although I’m more determined to conquer them,  also leave me wiped out.

Heat is my nemesis and that’s no small thing when you live in Texas.

And early morning is my least favorite time of day to lace up my Brooks.

Half way into my run this morning,  I realized I was facing all four minions at one time and I just about called someone to pick me up – until the song changed and I realized God was speaking.  He does that often when I’m working out.  I’ve never figured out if it’s because I’m exhausted and my defenses are down or if it’s because I’m focused and undistracted.  Regardless, I was done and he had something for me to learn.

We’ve had this conversation many times through the years so I guess I shouldn’t have to be reminded but…ya know.   This morning I was frustrated and wanted to push really hard and prove something to myself.  I wasn’t in the mood for a healthy and low stress walk or jog. This run was about conquering something that may have been more emotional than physical.   Little did I know, I would be faced with conquering that as well as all four of my running enemies at one time. Honestly, I couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t conquer them quickly and I wasn’t sure I’d conquer them at all.  The truth is I just wanted to quit.

Jesus knows me so well.  He knows how stubborn and impatient I am.  He knows how hard I am on myself.  He even knows how scared I can be even when I don’t realize it, but He has such a sweet way of giving me “pictures” that can explain more than words.  As I found myself gasping for air and about to quit,  it’s as if He said, ” Sometimes this is life.  I know it seems like too much but just keep moving.   We can take it slow.  We can take breaks. Just don’t quit.  Remember, I rule the wind and the sun.  I can make the hills into plains.  I can turn your mourning into dancing.   Keep your eyes on me.  Look right at me….Sing right to me.  I’m your hope.”

Funny thing is,  I made it home.  It wasn’t my best time ever but it wasn’t my worst and I didn’t quit.  How little I think I can handle sometimes.  If I could only remember that God is on my side and that Jesus is walking with me I think I wouldn’t be so afraid of the pain, hills, wind, sun and exhaustion.  His love is amazing.  His strength is never ending.  His grace overwhelms me.

I think I’ll follow him anywhere… it just may be at a slower pace on some days. 

The Valley of Tears

Valley of Baca

For as long as I can remember, it’s been important for me to recognize and value the struggles of life.  To recognize that faith doesn’t mean ignoring pain or speaking empty platitudes that make it seem like the “faithful” aren’t affected by struggle, sin or sorrow. To give voice to things that make people feel alone or different in a way that includes and validates, but in a way that also reminds our hearts that God is always present, working and loving. Even in our pain.

I’m aware that I can be more emotional than some. I can even border on the melodramatic at times.  The tears of another can send me crashing into deep sadness as easily as the beauty and fragility of a bird flitting and flying around my front flower bed can fill my heart with awe. But, more often than not, I live in a place of low-grade worry and pain.  To be fair, our world is a mess, people are hurting, and life is hard. The least I can do is be honest about it and “see” those who feel unseen.

But, today I am keenly aware that God has been massaging a few words deep into my soul over the last few weeks. Words that, to be honest, I struggle with. But, words that I know hold the keys to overcoming the struggles of life and that offer us access to a deep well of hope and joy.




You wouldn’t think they would be so hard to say (or type) but it’s almost as if recognizing their importance sets me up to fail in my obedience.  To ignore or turn a blind eye to them often seems easier, and much more palatable, to my sinful and selfish heart – but God has kindly shown me that it also causes my suffering to last longer, go deeper and lose the meaning it could hold. It’s my choice. It’s always my choice.

He is kind to give me choices. 

He is good to forgive my choices.

He is patient to reveal different choices.

Choosing differently can feel as if I’m being unfaithful to something valuable.  Something that deserves my tortured and sorrowful response. Something that needs to be held up in reverence and with anguish of soul to prove that it held a deep importance in this world.

But God seems to whisper to my heart that finding something to be grateful for in the middle of suffering doesn’t negate that I am suffering.  To trust that He is still in ultimate control when everything seems out of control doesn’t mean I can’t pound on His chest in prayer and weeping with a deep cry of “why?”. To surrender to the path He is leading me down doesn’t mean it’s easy, that I would have chosen it, or that I must paint on a smile when it’s difficult. It simply means that, ultimately, He is my source of life. Not myself. Not my freedom. Not my comfort. Not my family or my health or my prestige or my love or even my very breath. He is life itself and that life, that love, does not end with the ending of anything else.

What it does mean is that I remind my heart, “You are deeply loved”.  That suffering well unites me deeper to the heart of my suffering Savior. That God’s redemptive plan is not just for me as an individual but that it is for all of mankind and creation. I have no idea how my story finds a place in the bigger, grander and more beautiful tapestry that He is weaving in the world, but, I believe that it does, and it will. 

I can choose resentment, bitterness, anger, unforgiveness, hopelessness or unbelief and find that the darkness becomes deeper as each day dawns.  Or I can choose trust, surrender, gratitude, love, forgiveness hope, and faith and find that the heaviness of suffering lightens as I refocus my heart onto the one that carries it better than I.

It’s a tenuous endeavor for sure.  I choose well one day.  I choose not so well the next.  I find glimpses of peace and relief one day. I sink under the weight of grief the next. I see light one day. I grope in darkness the next. 

And all the while…my God is here.  He is steady and true.  He knows I am but dust, yet He calls me up and out to choose the heavenly as the eternal soul that I am.  And when I don’t…He keeps me from falling too far. 

The truth that He is so kindly massaging into my soul is this.  Circumstances don’t dictate whether my soul is well.  Living out the dream that I had for my life doesn’t bring security and peace. Avoiding pain and heartache isn’t what creates a life of rest and joy and purpose. All is well, security and peace are found, pain and heartache are born up ONLY when Jesus is near. Not when I give intellectual service to his presence but when I am united with His heart.  When my heart sits in silence long enough to hear his words deep within my soul and my heart believes it. When my perspective changes from the things I want in this world to the things I want of Him.  And when I can choose, to the best of my ability, to say to Him, “Where you lead, I will follow, with all the trust and love I can muster. Knowing that when I fail…. You never will.”

Psalms 84: 5-7

How enriched are they who find their strength in the Lord; 

within their hearts are the highways of holiness! 

Even when their paths wind through the dark valley of tears,

they dig deep to find a pleasant pool where others find only pain.

He gives to them a brook of blessing

filled from the rain of an outpouring.

They grow stronger and stronger with every step forward,

and the God of all gods will appear before them in Zion. (TPT)

Scripture quotations marked TPT are from The Passion Translation®. Copyright © 2017, 2018, 2020 by Passion & Fire Ministries, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

On a horse with no name

Sitting among giant cacti. Watching the sun set. The silence almost otherwordly.

I hear some sort of bird flying by. It seems so out of place, as if it had lost its way in the world and ended up in the wrong landscape. I can’t see him but his song sounds familiar.

I’d swear it was a seagull. 


But, Jonathan doesn’t live in this desert place surrounded by rocks and hills and dirt. He thrives among the waves and sand. So, I know it can’t be him.  It can’t be the friend that I would feed and coax and twirl with as my husband laughed at my childishness.  

But could it be? His song is slightly weaker…or smaller. I don’t know. 


But different.

My only explanation is that God created a new creature in the desert that is a shadow of his ocean brother.  They sing similar songs but soar in different worlds. They have the same purpose but stretch their wings in very different atmospheres. 

I feel as if he is me.

A shadow of myself. 

In a different world.  

A different atmosphere. 

With a familiar purpose 

But an unfamiliar life.

I feel weaker…smaller…invisible…but I’m here.  I didn’t expect to be.  Here – I mean. In this dry, rocky and  uncomfortable place. I didn’t see the change coming but I doubt it would have made a difference.  The truth is that it just is.  The question is, do I trust the one who holds both places together? Do I trust that He will teach me to fly again…even here? Do I trust that He will teach me how to survive and, maybe, thrive with a louder song and a deeper call? 

I want to.  I need to. But some days I just don’t.  Some days I want to lay in the desert and let the sand engulf me until I blow away in the wind. But today, this brother of Jonathan has reminded me that love and beauty and hope live. I may not be where I feel I belong, but I am here…in this new place…and my options are sing or die. I have too much to live for to die.  Yes…this world is not what I’ve known. It’s not even what I want.  It’s hard and lonely. It’s dull and beige and lacking the joy I remember and crave.  But, there is always the promise of new life when the creator is involved. And I have to believe he is involved.  I have to remember.  I have to stand on the truths that I’ve always believed and seen and experienced. The creator is here.  In this place. With me.  When I don’t want to be here.  So…

There is hope. 

There is life.

There is love. 

There is a song.

Shark Attack and Other Fears

I don’t like to be wrong, but sometimes it’s worse to be right.

I’m a worrier by nature. I routinely fear that the worst will happen so I’ve learned a tool that has helped me combat those worries over the years. I remind myself that our fears hardly ever happen. Being attacked by a shark, being in a plane crash, a tornado destroying our home, nuclear attack. It’s true that the likelihood of our fears happening is small…until it’s not.

I had a card deck of questions Steve and I were asking at dinner one night while we were at the beach. Many of those answers have been invaluable to me over the last 4 months but one of them still chills my heart. “What is your partners’ greatest fear?” We both got it right on the first try.

Steve’s was being weak or out of control. Mine was having something happen to him or one of our kids. After 33 years together, many highs and lows, struggling to learn to communicate, and lots of history to look back on, we both knew the others’ heart.

Literally, a week later, we faced them both. 

How I wish my fears would have been unwarranted, but the truth is, devastating things happen. Maybe not as often as we fear, but when they do, it changes everything.  

Unfortunately, I’ve met countless others over the last few months who wish they weren’t walking through their own fears as well. Some who seem to have an unshakeable confidence that all will be well.  Some who’ve given up on the thought that God could love them or that he even exists.  Some who are rightfully broken but humbly hopeful for the future. Some who take their hurt and wrap it around their hearts like a steal vest until nothing, pain or beauty, can get in or out. I’ve wondered where my heart will be found once I process and walk through this season. Honestly, it scares me. Doubt, fear, anger, and hopelessness threaten to rule my mind and heart quite often but, in standing against them, the greater fear is the temptation to counter those emotions with simplistic religious answers or trite platitudes. 

In the face of all this, the deep truth of Matthew 11 has reminded me that Jesus stands firm and true in the face of my greatest fears. Through John’s question and Jesus’ subsequent answer, my questioning heart is encouraged to remember that even the most faithful and humble servant of God can find themselves facing doubts because of fear, suffering or death. Jesus doesn’t disregard or rebuke John for his question but, actually, honors his faithfulness. Isn’t that beautiful? In verse 6, Jesus seems to allude to the fact that following him won’t always be easy but we are blessed if we don’t fall away during those times. He goes on to acknowledge that there will be resistance and pain in the advancement of his Kingdom; that things may get blurry at times but, in the end, truth will be known by the fruit that it produces; that humans have the propensity to seek blessings more than truth; and that life can become hard and heavy at times – but he wants to give us rest. That’s a lot of boxes he teaks off in one short chapter.

It seems that he wants us to know he gets it. Life I mean. Not only does he get it, he cares and wants to help us through seasons of pain we didn’t see coming. If someone gives me a 3-step plan as to how to trade my fears, burdens, worries and pain for God’s rest…I think I’d be suspicious. Relationships aren’t that easy.  They’re complex, ever-changing, dependent on communication and strengthened over time. 

This relationship I have with my Jesus is no different. So, this morning, over breakfast, He and I had some questions. After 46 years of highs and lows, struggling to learn how to communicate and lots of history to look back on, He gets me and I’m learning to listen.  You’re welcome to listen in if you’d like but, better yet…spend some time talking to him yourself. He doesn’t mind the questions and he can handle our doubts. Listen for a while and ask to see the depths of his love even in the pain of life.  My prayer for you and I today is to find a place of rest that cannot be shaken and a hope that rests in him alone.

Me – “Are you really who you say you are, Jesus?  Is it all true? This isn’t what I expected and it’s scary. It hurts. I’m confused. Did I hear you wrong? I thought you said you were doing a new thing. That this year would bring complete healing. That our family would find a place of purpose and joy. How could I be so wrong? Why would you heal only to take? What do I do now? The hopelessness seems like it will never go away. God…where are you?”

What I felt Jesus was saying to my heart- What have you seen and experienced in the past? What have I done in you and around you? Remember, sweet daughter.  Remember –  so that the enemy doesn’t cloud your heart in this pain. The temptation is always to question when life gets hard and when it seems like you’re being defeated. I understand. I’ve faced it all myself. Don’t so easily forget that I was, and am, victorious. This world is all you know (as of yet) but it isn’t all there is. In fact, it isn’t even your home.  You are an eternal being created for an eternal home.  This is simply the prologue to the real story and I want you to learn to focus on that. If you do, you won’t cling to this world with such desperation because hope is never lost.  Life is always waiting. Striving will cease because you can trust me to have your ultimate joy prepared and waiting. Death holds no power over my children and, because of that, life holds infinite possibilities. 

Remind yourself of all the times I showed up and all the times you have seen beauty, redemption, restoration, salvation, healing and love. This present darkness doesn’t change the truth of those moments and I continue to move in ways you can’t see and haven’t seen yet.  I love you.  I weep with you.  I pray for you.  And I want to carry you and your pain. Release it all to me…your doubt, your fear, your anger, your confusion, your disappointment…everything that is weighing heavy on your heart and pressing the breath out of your lungs. Open your hands and let it go. I am with you.  In the moments when you question me and my promises, remember that this is always true.  In every season, every wilderness, every pit…I am with you.  That’s what I do. I come to you. I stand with you. I hold you.  You don’t have to figure out how to make your way to me because I’m already here, now. Always have been and always will be. Life is a continuous series of joy and suffering but in all things, I am by your side and you are loved.  Hold fast to that truth. Fight for faith with all that is in you so that you can trust me when nothing else makes sense. Guard your heart and don’t let this world shut it off to love.I will carry you, your burdens and your pain. Speak to your fear and preach to your doubt, I was faithful then, I am faithful now, and I will be faithful for all of eternity.

You, my love, are seen, known and held.”

Even Now

Sun – Moon

Spring – Winter

Day – Night

Joy – Pain

It’s all life. It’s all yours. It’s all good.

There’s not one without the other. No power in love without the possibility of losing it…


Even when it’s too early and even when it doesn’t make sense and everything seems like insanity.

But, Father, how I long to never lose the gratitude of having loved. The gratitude of being loved.

Loved in a way that changed me. Completely.

The gratitude for regret that illuminates forgiveness. Of living and learning with another failable soul because it knits you together so tightly that you can’t tell where one starts and the other ends. Of dreaming and hoping and healing and moving forward, hand in hand, with hearts lifted to you. For years. For decades.

For what should have been longer

I don’t understand, Lord. I don’t know how I missed what you were saying. I thought we had a calling – together. I thought we were walking towards wholeness. But, maybe, it was a calling and wholeness of a kind I couldn’t fathom. What I know is that the moon makes the sun brighter. The winter makes the spring more beautiful. The night makes the day warmer. The pain makes the joy sweeter.

And I see it all too clearly now. How beautiful. How holy. How precious was this gift. This life. This love.

Too often we don’t see our blessings until we have lost them.

Teach us, Holy Spirit, to see more clearly. To live more fully. To love more selflessly.

Teach us to count our blessings – even in the valleys.

Teach us to have grateful hearts – even when things are hard.

Teach us to hope in possibilities – even when we face dead ends.

Teach us to love – even when we don’t feel loved or loveable.

Because when things change, we will hope for another season, another day, another chance to say “I love you”, “I’m sorry”, “This is worth fighting for”, “You are amazing”, “We are blessed” or “I forgive you”. Help us, no matter where we are, to live with this banner in our hearts and over our lives…

“Praise you, God – you are always good – even now!”

Keeper of the Sparrows

My desk sits in front of our homes’ largest window. My front porch swing, two towering live oaks, my front flower bed and the livestock roaming in my neighbor’s pasture seem to be extra comforting as sunshine melts the evidence of this week’s snowstorm. Five days ago I sat here under layers of blankets watching hundreds of birds dart around my feeders devouring bird seed as quickly as I could put it out. Shockingly, they would bravely remain on one feeder as I filled up another without so much as a glance in my direction. One even landed on my hand! Hunger overrides fear,I guess, and they were certainly hungry, puffed up and frantic to survive. (Much like the rest of our ill-equipped state.) 

Today, as I look out over my feeders, I only see a handful of sparrows and a red bird or two. Quite a few Robins are eyeing the mushy ground for bugs, and crows are cawing from the neighbors’ oak tree but my smorgasbord is fairly empty once again. The weather sure makes a difference in the desperation of my feathered friends and in their willingness to allow me to get close.

It’s not difficult to draw similarities between the nature of birds and my own nature. The “weather” in my life has clearly determined the levels of desperation in my heart and the willingness to which I draw near to God. When life falls apart and we’re at the end of our abilities, it seems that we, as humans, instinctively run to God. We pursue His presence, we devour His word, and we cling to any sense of hope that prayer can provide. But, when the sun comes out and the fear dies down, it seems just as instinctual to depend on our own abilities and to forget who provided all we needed during the storm.  

Oh, but God is patient and gracious! He knows our pride and self-reliance but he continues to convict, to pursue, and to love us. When I’m face to face with the results of living life in my own strength, I’m reminded of how faithful he is. Each time I’ve found myself in a storm and in desperate need of his presence and provision, He’s been there. Each time, I find more “belonging.” I’m not sure how else to describe it except that my soul knows this place of dependency is where I’m meant to be. Where I’m meant to live. Each time I watch God faithfully care for me through a trial, my heart finds it easier to stay in that place a little while longer. To live from that place of dependency and trust instead of from a place of forgetfulness and self-reliance. The more I taste of God’s goodness…the hungrier I become. 

And hunger seems to not only override fear but pride and self reliance as well. 

I haven’t found a way to expedite the learning to live from this place of dependency. This place of abiding. It seems to come in its’ own time through experience…and failure. The ability to rest in who God is and what he does is inexplicably tied to the knowledge of who I am and what I can do. Or cannot do. The sin, deceptiveness and naiveté of my own heart and the weakness, frailty and decaying nature of my own body lead to the understanding that my hope truly does rest in God, the Keeper of the sparrows. 

This revelation is worth praying for, but it isn’t easy and it isn’t always pretty. It is, however, a gift. A gift of humility that leads to a pursuit of righteousness that leads to peace. To belonging.  To satisfaction.  Resting in God’s hand as he provides exactly what I need frees my soul to hope, breath, and love in the face of whatever comes. At least that’s the glimpse I’ve had of where I’m meant to belong. I hope I can learn to hang out there a little longer today than I did yesterday. And even longer tomorrow.  

Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?“And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.       Matthew 6:26-33

Talking to Myself in the Darkness

This is one of those posts where I’m telling myself what I know to be true and what I need to hear.  Just flat out preaching to my own heart with the hopes that I can stir up my faith. Because, truthfully,  I am so weary. This world seems out of control crazy and the consistency of loss has ripped stone after stone from the walls that protected my soul until I find myself in a place off sadness that I haven’t felt in a very long time. If ever. 

The question that I ask myself is, “Why? What pain, difficulties of life, or sin in yourself or humanity surprises you?

I know life is hard.  I know humans are sinful. I know nothing is promised to me and our “comfort” is precarious at best.  I also know that my grandparents faced many more struggles than I have including the death of a child, chronic illness, a flu epidemic that was worse than COVID, two world wars and an economic collapse to name a few. Yet, I remember them as being so strong.  Physically, mentally and spiritually strong.  Not only that,  I remember their smiles and their laughter.  The joy they found in simple pleasures. The hope that God is, ultimately, the victor. Truthfully, maybe I should be more shocked by the lack of faith, love and joy in the lives of Christ’s followers than I am at the struggles we face. 

I’ve been asking for deliverance a lot lately and asking God how I can let go of this worry so I can live in greater faith and joy. True to his goodness, he has allowed the tears, the fear, the doubt and ALL THE WORDS – without condemning my weakness. He’s covered me with comfort at times  and left me to struggle at others.  And then, like he always does, after patiently listening and allowing me to vent all my feelings, he pointed me to truth.  Truth that I didn’t necessarily want to see or hear.  But my heart knows it’s true. 

James 1:2-4  Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.  

 The amplified version says,  “Consider it nothing but joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you fall into various trials.”  I sure feel like I’ve “fallen into various trials.” Don’t you?  The last 12 months have been full of all kinds of various trials that seemed to just happen to us.  Not due to anything we’ve done, but just because we live in this world. Yet, James says to consider it a gift.  Count it as joy.  Really? How?  

And I remembered my grandparents again. And my parents. 

 I was looking at old pictures with my mom the other night as she told me stories of her grandparents her parents, her uncles and even her and my dad.  Things they experienced and walked through that I never knew about.  Horrible things.  Things that changed them.  And I suddenly saw a beautiful picture of this passage.  

A few of them were changed by the difficulties in negative ways.  They became depressed, angry, hateful, bitter or afraid as they aged.  But most of them allowed those difficulties to change them in positive ways and to grow their faith.  To differentiate what was tradition and what was true.  They struggled and cried and prayed to the other side of the trials until their faith was mature and well-developed.  Like the Amplified Bible says, it led them to inner peace. I remember seeing that peace in how they lived, how they related to people, how they handled disappointments and in how they died. 

I would prefer that God change the things in my life that we’ve fallen into but, in the long run, I want what he is showing me.  I want steadfast faith.  Perfect peace. A certainty that my life and purpose is wrapped up in him and not in the ever-changing power struggles of this world.  

 So, self…count it all joy.  Face these various trials knowing that God is greater and that this world is not the ultimate home for your soul.  

The next few verses in James say to ask God for wisdom when we need help navigating circumstances and to have faith that he will lead. 

So, self…ask and trust that God gives generously and without blame. He won’t leave you hanging without direction.

A few verses later, James mentions those people who are tossed around by every wave and wind. James 1:8  “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” 

So, self…search long and hard to see who you are loyal to. God and his everlasting kingdom or the kingdoms of this world that give you a false sense of security. Your security is in the light and life of Jesus.  There will always be sin, injustice, poverty, hatred, division, pride, fear, war and uncertainty.  The question is,  will you simply curse the darkness or will you become a light? 

So, self…don’t just endure this time. Defy it by being the light of the world as Jesus was. Walk like Jesus walked. Love, especially those who hate you. Forgive those who hurt you. Speak truth but don’t hate. Stand against lies with power and strength that is under control. Trust that God sees and cares.  Focus on him and discard the things that distract you. 

 Self… Never forget that your heart goes where your eyes look so stay focused. Don’t despair.  Don’t give in. Don’t give up. And don’t settle for what the world says is righteousness and peace. God will use it all for His glory and you will know pure joy.

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thought are fixed on you!” Isaiah 26:3

Wrinkles in This Time

I try not to dwell on the fact that I’m getting older.  It’s hard to ignore when I can’t hold my tea without wincing at the stab of arthritis pain in my thumb or when my joints are stiff as I get out of bed in the morning. It’s hard to ignore when I scroll through my high school’s “50th Anniversary” page and realize how many of my classmates are no longer here.  But, it’s really hard to ignore when I look in the mirror and see wrinkles everywhere.  The truth is that those wrinkles are a sign of how blessed I am.  Of course, I have the worry lines between my eyes and the lines around my lips from pursing them in thoughtfulness or frustration. I’m trying to worry less but that’s just one of my ongoing struggles.  BUT, the majority of my wrinkles reveal decades of laughter, amazement and smiles.  My face is becoming an ever more topographical map of a life lived and, I hope, lived well.   

I realize I could wipe that map clean with a couple thousand dollars’ worth of Botox and I’m not against that at all, but I don’t think I’d ever want to completely lose these lines of mine.  The happy lines remind me of how blessed I am and, the others… well, they remind me that I can still learn more about depending on God and resting in His love.  That sounds very mature of me, doesn’t it?  Trust me, more often than not, I just see those lines and think, “When did this happen and how can I stop it?”  

Getting older isn’t great.  At least, I don’t enjoy most of it.  But there are some benefits to living, making mistakes, seeing how the world works and loving people for half a century.  I hope I’ll become better at gracefully growing old over the next few years.  As of now, I still recognize the depth of my pride and worry over what the next few decades hold but, I also hope that I have at least a few more decades.     

This past year has been a doozy and many of us are scared and confused about what could be next.  That’s understandable and valid but it would be worth remembering what other people have lived through and survived in the past 100 years.  We are able to overcome much more than we imagine and are capable of creating a better world than we have.  It may put a few more lines on our collective faces but which lines those are will be up to us.  Will we trust in God’s faithfulness and continue to find the joy and blessing in life so that those laugh lines become deeper? Or, will we worry and fear over the unknown and watch those lines deepen? It’s a struggle, isn’t it.  But isn’t it worth it to find more of God in the midst of it all and become more like Jesus? 

I mean let’s be real.  Crow’s feet are a blessing in the day of Covid.  How else do you know when someone is smiling at you?  Smile big my friends and lets’ rock those wrinkles.