A Timetable for Grief

jim and grandma

It’s been three and a half years since Jim died.  I haven’t really talked about it much because, well, what would I even say.  It’s all so tender and fragile and holy.  It’s been three and a half years since we all stood around his bed and said goodbye.  None of us wanted to, but we had no choice. So we did. I stood in the back of the room because I didn’t think I had a right to stand closer. He was my uncle.  Not my brother.  Not my partner.  My uncle.  I didn’t have a right to be up close as he took his last breaths so I stood in the back and held mine.  In that cold hospital room, with the stupid blue chair and the horrible view of the roof and the air conditioning units I watched him die.  And some of me died there too.

Parts of me that believed that life was good and right and real died that day when the most real person I ever knew stopped living and left us all there to figure out why the hell it happened.  Even now as I write these words I still have no idea.  You know how sometimes you look back on things that have happened and say, “so THAT’S why that happened.  I understand now.”  Three and a half years later I still can’t make sense of it.  And maybe that’s just it.  There isn’t a reason.  He died because he got sick.  That’s it.  End of story.  Maybe there’s no lesson there at all.

I don’t think I’ve taken a deep breath since that day.  I’ve been shallow breathing for nearly four years.  Filled with so much sadness and grief and anxiety that I can’t catch my breath.  I got an up close and personal view of how fragile life actually is and it wrecked me.  Jenny Simmons writes, “Life is so deathy.”  She’s right.  It is.  But here’s the thing…the deathy-ness of life can keep us from the living.  It’s kept me from living.  It just feels so horribly wrong that the sense of wrongness takes up residence inside us and prevents us from taking deep breaths and seeing the fleshy colors of life all around us.  The weight of death wrapped itself around my shoulders, refused to let me go, and I’ve been sinking underneath the heaviness of it.

I couldn’t accept it, so I didn’t.  My heart has stayed there in that room, frozen in time, because I haven’t been able to deal with it yet.  And I’m terribly embarrassed about that.  I feel ashamed that I’m still grieving.  Like, why can’t I just get over it already?  Everyone expected me to get over it years ago, so I put on my happy face and pretended.  But really, inside I’m just numb and angry and devastated.

I keep feeling the need to explain why I loved him the way I did, why his death has me so messed up.  I feel the need to validate my grief.  But I can’t figure out why.  Is there some rule about who we are allowed to grieve for and whose death we have to move right past?  I don’t feel like I have a right to be this sad.  But I am.  So where does that leave me?  Not only am I still, nearly four years later, filled with red hot grief – I’m also ashamed to admit it so I’m keeping it entirely to myself.  So add to the red hot grief a paralyzing loneliness that I didn’t even realize was there.

I was pregnant with my fifth child, our first boy, when my uncle died.  I was terrified I would lose that baby as I had lost one many years before. So as we buried Jim, I buried my feelings along with him.  I became numb, the feeling parts of me closed off as tightly as I could manage while still being able to hug and hold all of my sweet babies. Bittersweet living. A new baby came and new friends and opportunities and all along the way I showed up just enough to take a ton of pictures, laugh a little and then crawl back into my hidy hole.

As I begin to emerge from my little cocoon, I realize that I am certainly not the only one who’s been here. There are so many of us who struggle with sadness, depression, anxiety or grief and we never really talk about it. For me, it was mostly because I wouldn’t have known what to say. And I’m usually pretty in touch with my feelings. I generally understand myself pretty well. Grief changes all that self-awareness though, I think. At least it did for me. I suddenly had no idea how to deal, or even what exactly I was dealing with. I heard someone say once that sin takes you further than you want to go and keeps you longer than you want to stay.  Well, I wonder if the same is true of grief – although I would never compare grief to sin.  Grief takes you hostage. It pulls you away from the living. And it cannot be interrupted, ignored or avoided no matter how hard you try. Grief has its own timetable and it will not be determined by those who grieve, we are simply along for the ride.

I wish that someone had told me that grief is different for every person. The timing will be different. The feelings will be different. The intensity and effects will be different. None of that means that anyone’s grief is more or less significant than anyone else’s – it simply means that grief (like anxiety and depression) is different for all of us. I wonder if we have to actually be present within the grief to ever come back out of it? I wonder if grief isn’t something to just get through, but rather something to experience freely and fully so that we can take from it even more memories of the people that we lost. I have memories of my grief that are entwined with my memories of and with my uncle. This may sound strange, but they are as precious to me as the memories I have with him living. They feel tender to me and I wouldn’t give them up for anything.

I’m grateful for my season of grief and for however long it decides to last. I will fully participate in it. I will not try to push it down or away, but will listen to whatever it has to teach me.

I pray now for each of you who are traveling your own grief journey. Let us not be ashamed or discouraged. Let us be willing and ready to remember and be thankful that we have had the beautiful and enduring privilege of loving someone so deeply. May God bless you in your grief and me in mine. 


We Belong to Each Other

I have to admit that I’ve been really grumpy lately. Grumpy and sad. It seems like every day I hear about or read about some hugely controvertial event that everybody in the whole world is either entirely for or vehemently against. Story after story pops up on my Facebook feed – guns, gorillas, bathrooms, babies – and on and on it goes. Take a quick scroll through the comments of any of these news stories and you’ll feel like there is no end to what we will fight about. And everyone is an expert. On everything. Blech. So I’m grumpy. And weary. And ready for all the fighting to end.

But I’m not three. So I know better. The fighting will never end. It will continue on and on until Jesus returns and completes what He began at the manger.

In her book, Carry On Warrior, Glennon Doyle Melton writes, “I love God, whoever he is, and I’d really like to get closer to him.  I’ve been thinking about how one of the simplest ways to get close to a woman is to be good  to her children.  To be kind and gentle and to pay close attention to the things that make them special.  To try to see her children the way she sees her children.  And how God made us in his image.  How he is the mother and father of all of us.  So I wonder if that would be the best way to get closer to him too.  By being kind and gentle to his children and noticing all of the things that make them special.  So many of us spend our time trying to find God in books, but maybe the simplest way to God is directly through the hearts of his children.”

Man, that’s good.

The best way to get to know the heart of an artist is to study his art.  The best way to understand the heart of an author is to study the books they’ve created.  The best way to understand a songwriter is to listen to the songs they’ve written.  So it would make sense that the best way to get to know the heart of the Father is to study his creation.  Genesis 1:27 says, “God created man in his own image.  In the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”  Genesis 1:31 says, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.”

I’ve recently been reading a book called The Very Good Gospel by Lisa Sharon Harper.  At the beginning of her fabulous book, she talks about what God meant when he said that his creation was “very good”.  She says this:

At the end of the sixth day, the writers declare, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good [tov me’od].  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).

Tov is the Hebrew word for “good,” but the word does not refer only to the goodness of the object itself; it also refers to the ties between things.  In the Hebrew conception of the world, all of creation is connected.  The well-being of the whole depends on the well-being of each individual part.

– The Very Good Gospel, Lisa Sharon Harper, pg 30-31

Our connectedness is what makes us whole and healthy and “very good” in the eyes of our Creator.  This connectedness brings peace and love and happiness.  It helps us to remember our worthiness and our sense of belonging.  It helps us to remember that we are not the center of the universe, but rather an integral part of a beautiful whole that includes everyone.  When we remember that we’re connected no one gets left out or left behind.  Mother Teresa once said that “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”  I believe this is THE reason that we can’t stop fighting.  We’ve forgotten that everyone belongs, everyone is worthy, everyone matters.  Not just me.  Not just you.  But everyone.

%22If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.%22

What if we lived as though everyone mattered?  The person in the car we just cut off, the lady in front of us in line at the grocery store who has eight bazillion coupons, the teenaged kid who is bullying other kids because he feels so worthless that he’s afraid someone else might think he’s worthless too, your kid’s teachers – who are doing the very best that they can, your pastor, your in-laws, your kids, your spouse – they all matter.  And everyone else that makes you mad, pushes your buttons, wastes your time or makes you feel rotten – they all matter too.  And so do you.  Not more than everyone else, but just as much.

Can you imagine how the world might change if we thought that way and then let that thinking influence our actions?  We might learn to seek to understand instead of seeking to be understood.  We might be able to look across the table and find common ground.  We might even turn our attention to more important things to fight against – like hunger, sex trafficking or racism.

“I am confident because I believe that I am a child of God.  I am humble because I believe that everyone else is too.” – Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On Warrior

Looking at each other as equals requires both humility AND confidence.  We can no longer see ourselves as less important, but we can’t see ourselves as more important either.  Everyone gets the same score on the scale of value.  We all make the cut.  In fact, we all hit the bullseye in terms of worth and value.  No one misses the mark.  

Once we understand all of that, we can learn to build bridges, cross divides and discover new common ground.  We may have to build that common ground, but once we see everyone as equally worthy we can begin to mend the hurt and create a new future together.  Sounds idealistic, and it is, but I also believe it’s the stuff of the Gospel.  Bridge-building, peace making, worthiness, grace, common ground – it’s the stuff of Jesus.  

by this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you



Two Things Have I Heard

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 62.  Here is a bit of it…

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (v 1-2)

“My soul, wait in silence for God only, For my hope is fro Him.  He only is my rock and my salvation, My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.  On God my salvation and my glory rest; The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.  Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (v 5-8)

“One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done.” (v11-12)


The last part is my favorite. You, O God, are strong & You, O Lord, are loving. What a perfect combination. What if He was strong, but not loving? Think about it. What if He was loving, but not strong?  What a wonderful thing for us all that He is both! 

I am going to praise Him today because He is both strong AND loving. He is able to accomplish any task, to handle any situation, to take care of anything I need – and He loves me enough to do all of that. He will work everything out for good. He is able to do immeasurably more than I ask or imagine – and I can trust that He will. Praise God!

My prayer for you this week, sweet friends, is that you will experience God’s mighty strength this week – that you would recognize that HE IS ABLE – and that you would also experience His mighty love – that you would feel how deeply you are loved by the God of all creation.

Love you guys,


Dearly Loved

I wrote this over a year ago when my littlest baby was still so very little.  He is two now, and the other four babies in this house are even bigger than that, but I have to say that I still feel exactly this way about all of them:

From 2014:

As I write this I sit here on my big red couch holding a little baby boy.  The sweetest and most adorable baby that ever was – except, of course, for the other four babies living in this house that came directly from God’s heart (and my belly).  I am so enthralled with this child that I can hardly get another thing done in all my day.  I’m not kidding.  If I could get away with it I would snuggle this little thing every moment of every day.  I love his tiny little smiley eyes.  His big belly laughs.  His sweet little hands.  His crooked little ear.  His sweet smelling baby breath.  Everything about him.  Every.  Little.  Thing.  I want to squeeze him so very tightly that he becomes a physical part of me.  For real.


That’s how much YOU are loved.  That’s how much you are loved by GOD!  Breathe that in for a minute.  Just stop right now – whatever you are doing – and breathe that in.

You are loved and cherished just as deeply – by the God of all that is or ever was.  He loves your sweet face.  Your eyes.  Your mouth.  Your hands.  Your heart.  Everything about you.  Every.  Single.  Thing.  No matter what anyone else thinks of you – or even what you may think about yourself – you are a loved, cherished, coveted, precious child of God.  He loves you so much that He doesn’t ever want to be parted with you.  He wants to hold you so tightly that you become a part of Him – that HE becomes a part of YOU.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

I pray that you realize today how deeply and wholly you are loved.  I pray that God’s love for you increases your love for Him.  I pray also that it increases our love for each other.

“God loves each of us as if there were only one of us.” – Augustine

“God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures.  It is true whether we believe it or not.  Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it.  It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.” – Jerry Bridges

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!  And that is what we are!  The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.  Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.  But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. “ – 1 John 3:1-2

Love you guys,


Becoming in Worship


“A person will worship something, have no doubt about that. We may think our tribute is paid in secret in the dark recesses of our hearts, but it will [come] out. That which dominates our imaginations and our thoughts will determine our lives, and our character. Therefore, it behooves us to be careful what we worship, for what we are worshipping we are becoming.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Emerson was a pastor in a Christian church early in his life. He then lost his wife and began to pull away from the church. Eventually he spearheaded the Transcendental movement in the 19th century. I wonder at what point in his life he wrote this.

I have read this quote many times and each time I am struck by how exactly right it is.

We all worship something.

What we worship determines who we are.

I especially love the last line…what we are worshipping we are becoming.

I pray that is true of me.
I believe that is the true goal of

To become more like Christ.

If we are not becoming more like Christ …
we probably should be asking the question …

what are we really worshiping?

Love Comes First

I was raised in a Christian home and was in church from the time I was four.  I grew up in a small Southern Baptist Church in the DFW area and, although I know that everyone has a different experience of church – no matter the denomination, my experience in church was overall a very positive and affirming one.  I was loved, cared for, taught and encouraged.  I was also admonished when I needed to be, but with love and kindness.  When I think back on my experience in church growing up, I feel very blessed.  The people of my church were my family.  They taught me things.  They helped me become who I am.  Without them I cannot imagine where I’d be.

Richard taught me how to love people no matter what they looked like by loving me just as I was and no matter how I dressed.  Nita and Ginger taught me about missionaries and what it looks like to serve God in other places.  Johnny taught me about worship and later he and his wife, Leona, taught me about marriage and parenthood.  Miss Rose taught me about Jesus.  Miss Bessie taught me about faithfulness.  My friend, Chris, taught me about loyalty and about unconditional love.  Paul taught me about evangelism and his wife, Christy, taught me about modesty.  Pattie, though she may not know this, inspired my dream of becoming a worship leader.

Later in my life and ministry Eric and Paul Michael taught me about what ministry really looks like and they both encouraged me and believed in me enough to help me find my own.  Dennis taught me about myself, who God made me to be, and that I didn’t need to be afraid of it.  After over ten years of ministry in churches, I’m still learning from the people who I serve with.  Lee is teaching me about grace – not only through his words, but mostly by his example.  Rachel is forever teaching me about forgiveness and courage.  Amy is teaching me about joy and friendship.  I cannot count the number of people who have spoken love and life to me over the years.  These people are all church people.  These people are all my people.  We speak the same language.  We think the same thoughts.  We have the same burning passion for Jesus and for people to know Jesus.  Church is meaningful to me.  Church people are meaningful to me.

I never understood the enormous difference between my experience with church and the experiences of the people around me that seemed to be so negative.  That was, until I had some negative experiences of my own.  It’s amazing how completely oblivious we are to the world around us until we get a taste of it ourselves.  I have been deeply hurt by church people, too.  I carry deep scars that may never fully heal from people who follow after Jesus.  And I’ve left scars of my own too.  And I think that’s the part that hurts the very most.  Church is supposed to be a place where broken, hurting people can come to be healed and loved by Jesus and supported and encouraged by each other.  And sometimes we’re great at that.  But sometimes we’re not.  Sometimes I think we’ve missed the point entirely.

Christians spend so much time trying to stand out from the world as “holy” or “set apart” and that’s exactly what we should be.  But I often wonder if we’re trying harder to ACT holy than we are trying to BE holy. 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”              – John 13:34-35

Love comes first.  That’s how they know that we follow Jesus – by how we love each other.  Christian to Christian.  Christ follower to Christ follower.  Believer to Believer.  How we love each other matters to the people around us.  When they see us bickering over stupid things, arguing over theology, fighting over semantics it makes it look as though we hate each other.  The world is having a hard time believing that following Jesus is worth anything because even His followers can’t get along.  Forget about how we treat the rest of the world – although that’s enormous too – we can’t even get along with each other!

Think about that.  We’re part of a family that has something incredible to offer.  We desperately want the world to know what we have to give.  What we have to give is good and real and life-giving and FREE!  So we stand up and start telling everyone how wrong and stupid and awful all our family members are.  Then we tell all of those people how horrible and unlovable they are too.  And we cannot figure out for the life of us why they aren’t interested in our offer.  It’s ludicrous.  It really is.

The world needs Jesus.  Desperately.  He is the source of love, peace, mercy, grace, forgiveness, healing and everlasting life with a perfect, holy and loving God.  But the world won’t ever see Him in bickering Christians, or prideful pastors.  When we spend all our effort and energy on “defending the Gospel” instead of living the Gospel we’ve entirely missed the point.  I don’t believe that the Gospel needs defending anyway.  What if instead of boldly proclaiming the truth (as we understand it) we were graciously living the love of Christ?  Instead of boldly proclaiming … graciously living.  Wouldn’t that make the world stop and take a look?

In his book, Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians debate, Justin Lee said this: “Jesus radiated grace and compassion in such a way that people came to him to hear his views on things.  By contrast, we Christians were so focused on preaching our views on things that we were driving people away, turning them off to church, Jesus, and everything we had to say.”

I believe that the way that we treat each other as Christians greatly affects the way people around us view Christianity.  I know that it is such hard work to find common ground with people you vehemently disagree with, but if we are to be Christ’s love to a hurting world we have to try.  We have the ultimate common ground: grace.

“Grace sees people for what makes them uniquely beautiful to God, not for all the ways they’re flawed or all the ways I disagree with them.  That kind of grace is what enables loving bridges to be built over the strongest disagreements.  Gracious dialogue is hard work.  It requires effort and patience, and it’s tempting to put it off.  All of us have busy lives and a lot of other issues to address.  But for anyone who cares about the future of the church, this can’t be put off.  The next generation is watching how we handle these questions, and they’re using that to determine how they should treat people and whether this Christianity business is something they want to be involved in.” – Justin Lee (Torn, pg 252)

I couldn’t agree more.  If the world is ever going to care what we have to say, they need to know how much we care about them – and how much we care for each other.

Love comes first.

PS: If you’re at all interested in helping to bridge the divide between gays and the church, please go buy and read Justin’s book. It affected me deeply.  You can also find his blog here.


21 Seconds to Change Your World – A Book Review

Restore your soul through prayer.  Those are the words on the back cover.  I have to admit that I went into this book a skeptic.  I expected something along the lines of Prayer of Jabez or some other rote prayer that claims to bring you health and wealth.  That is NOT this book.  21 Seconds to Change Your World, by Dr. Mark Rutland, walks through the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 in an exegetical fashion, comparing the words, thoughts and intentions of the authors of each text.

The Book is broken up into three parts: The Journey Begins, which explains the intent of the book and the importance of these two prayers; The Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23, the meatiest section in which both of the prayers are examined thoroughly and compared to one another; and the third section, To Change Your World, gives the reader ideas and thoughts about how to use these two prayers to your personal benefit and to impact the community and world around you.

There are so many things about this book that make it worth reading.  First, the unpacking of both the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23.  I have both of these prayers memorized and have for most of my life.  However, after reading the chapters in the second section of this book, I have a much deeper understanding of the intentions of their authors and a much greater appreciation for the beauty of their words.  The author is obviously very knowledgeable and well-studied on the topics, but he is also so humble and kind in his style of writing.  I felt as though I was listening to my own pastor, whom I thoroughly love and respect.  Another reason this book is worth reading is the last few chapters.  These chapters are the “what to do next” chapters.  After studying the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 in the previous 19 chapters, the last five chapters gave me some practical ways to use these beautiful, Biblical prayers to help me in so many different ways – inner healing, intimacy with God, deliverance from temptations, just to name a few.

Over the last week or so since I finished this book, I have been reciting the Lord’s Prayer and Psalm 23 regularly (21 seconds a day) and the impact in my own heart and life has been real and measurable.  I am more calm.  My priorities are easier to determine.  My fears have been more manageable.  My stress is lower.  I have even been able to walk away from temptation multiple times a day (I have a massive addiction to soda and sweets).  This book is not a magic formula in and of itself.  But it does have wonderful instruction on how to use scripture to become more committed to Jesus, more in tune with the Holy Spirit and more effective in life and in ministry.  I whole-heartedly recommend that everyone read this book!


Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Baker Books Bloggers.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions are my own.

Fear and Loathing in My Driveway

A few nights ago I wasn’t feeling well, so my sweet husband took all five of our kids out to dinner and to the grocery store so I could rest in peace and quiet. (Have I ever mentioned that I am married to the most wonderful man in the entire world?) Since I very rarely get the opportunity to be alone, I thought I would take advantage of it and watch something on TV.  So I turned on a new show that I heard would be really great to see if I would like it.  Trying out new shows is very stressful for me.  To me, it’s kind of like watching a movie that I’ve never seen before.  I know that seems weird, but remember how I struggle with guilt?  Well, watching movies feels like a long time to be away from my never-ending to-do list and so I very rarely watch movies.  I feel the same way about new TV shows.  I mean, what if it’s terrible and I just wasted thirty minutes or even an hour of my precious time (that could have been spent on any one of a thousand other important things) on a show that I am now dumber for having watched.

However, despite my very logical (certifiable) issues with new TV shows, I turned one on.  It was not at all what I expected.  I was expecting funny but instead it was intense, weird, uncomfortable and a bit creepy.  I don’t do well with creepy – especially when I’m by myself.  So I’m all alone in an empty house that is eerily quiet, it’s getting dark outside and I’m not more than 15 minutes into this creepy weird show when I hear a big thud coming from one of the back rooms.  I immediately jumped up, grabbed my phone and keys and ran out of the house in 5 seconds flat.  I jumped in the car, turned it on and sat there.  FOR FORTY-FIVE MINUTES!  Not kidding.  This is what I actually did.  I didn’t even lock the door behind me.  Just ran and sat for almost an hour until my husband could get home and clear the house of whatever made the scary noise in the first place.  He’s so used to my weird fear-based shenanigans that he didn’t even laugh, or say anything other than “it’s all clear” after walking through our entire house (including closets) to make sure that there was nothing that could “get” me.  My prince.  My hero.  I don’t have any idea why he puts up with me.  Fear makes me do nutty things.

fear and loathing

The next day, when I finally had my wits about me again, I was reflecting on my ridiculous evening of fear and loathing in my driveway and I was reminded of the story of Gideon.  Remember the story?  It’s found in Judges 6-8.  In Israel at that time, the Midianites would come through the area where Gideon lived every year for seven years and steal their crops and livestock so that the Israelites had no food for themselves.  The Israelites were terrified of the Midianites. When we first meet Gideon he is hiding in a winepress, threshing wheat so he could keep it from the Midianites.  The angel of God comes to him and says, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior!”

In the middle of his fear and hiding, God reminds Gideon that He is on his side – that He is with him.  Sometimes I forget that God is on my side.  Life is so very much harder than I thought it would be and I often feel all alone in my struggles. I feel all alone in my soul.  In his little book “How to Be Filled with the Holy Spirit”, A.W. Tozer writes, “There is a spiritual loneliness, an inner aloneness, an inner place where God brings the seeker, where he is as lonely as if there were not another member of the Church anywhere in the world.  Ah, when you come there, there is a darkness of mind, an emptiness of heart, a loneliness of soul, but it is preliminary to the daybreak.  O God, bring us, somehow, to the daybreak!”  If A.W. Tozer felt this loneliness of soul, if the mighty warrior Gideon felt it, I think it’s safe to say that we have probably all felt this all alone feeling at one point or another.

I don’t particularly like my alone time.  That’s when my thoughts and fears get the best of me.  I wouldn’t have ended up in my car for an hour hiding from the big noise of the falling shampoo bottle if someone had been with me.  I might have been able to gather the strength to go and find out what made the scary noise in the first place if I had had back up.  What if I were able to be close enough to God, sure enough of Him, that I considered Him to be fully present in my every situation?  What If I remembered that God is with me and acted accordingly?  I don’t think there is any other way that I will be able to face the ridiculous fears that plague by head and my heart.  I think I understand the lyrics to one of my favorite hymns a little better after this experience:

The author of this song is a woman named Annie Hawks.  She was a housewife and mother and was two years older than I am now when she wrote this song.  I feel a kinship to her when I read her words and imagine that she felt then similarly to how I feel now over a hundred years later – that without the nearness and very presence of God I cannot make it.  Here are her beautiful words.  They will be my prayer today.

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, stay Thou nearby;
Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.

I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is vain.

I need Thee, oh, I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;

Oh, bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.



Breathe In, Breathe Out

I read a book last year that took hold of me and started me on a journey to a different kind of thinking.  I cannot tell you how profoundly this book impacted my heart.  The book is Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle.  Father Boyle is a Jesuit priest and the founder of Homeboy Industries in California.  His book is about grace, redemption, love and life.  I urge you to go read it.

I was flipping back through it this morning, reading all of the things I highlighted and underlined.  As I was reading through his chapter called Gladness, I felt compelled to share a bit with you.

“Jesus says, “My ways are not your ways.” but they sure could be.  In the utter simplicity of breathing, we find how naturally inclined we are to delight and to stay dedicated to gladness.  We bask in God’s unalloyed joy, and we let loose with that same joy in whoever is in front of us.  We forget what a vital part of our nature this is.” (p150, Tattoos on the Heart)

“We breathe in the spirit that delights in our being – the fragrance of it.  And it works on us.  Then we exhale (for that breath has to go somewhere) – to breathe into the world this same spirit of delight, confident that this is God’s only agenda.” (p151, Tattoos on the Heart)

I must have read that last sentence a dozen or more times.  Even now as I read it, I feel so affected by the truth of the statement that it brings tears to my eyes.

We breath in the delight of God and it works on us.  Then we breath out that same delight to the people around us.  This is God’s purpose for us.  To breathe in His delight – His pleasure in us – His love for us.  We breathe in His love and we breathe out His love.  Inhale and exhale.  Delight in, Delight out.  Acceptance in, Acceptance out.  Grace in, Grace out.  Peace in, Peace out.  Love in, love out.  That is our greatest purpose.  I truly believe it is that simple.  We are to be instruments of His love, His peace, His grace, His mercy, His delight.  God’s love for us, His delight in us fills up our lungs and our hearts and our minds and we breathe it back out into the world.

Father Boyle says, “We have grown accustomed to think that loving as God does is hard.  We think it’s about moral strain and obligation.  We presume it requires a spiritual muscularity of which we are not capable, a layering of burden on top of sacrifice, with a side order of guilt.  (But it was love, after all, that made the cross salvific, not the sheer torture of it.)” (p155, Tattoos on the Heart)

We make loving people and loving ourselves so complicated.  We have all these prerequisites for worthiness.  When really there are none.  It’s not complicated.  It may not be easy, but it’s not complicated.

Breathe love in.  Let it work on us.  Breathe love out.



My prayer for you this week is that you breathe in the incredible love of the Father who delights in your very existence.  That you let that delight work on your heart until you understand how very enough you are – how very loved you are.  That you exhale that same love, grace and compassion to the people around you.

Love you guys!





A Deeper Faith

479978_10151242736437710_932553550_n 945929_10151640434692710_651379145_n

I was married six months after I turned 18.  I was desperately in love with a boy and couldn’t imagine being apart from him.  My mother said that if we couldn’t be apart then we had to be married.  So we married.  12 1/2 months later, our first child was born.  I was 19.  Four months later (about a week before I turned 20), my husband was diagnosed with leukemia.  I was 19, a newlywed, a new mother and now the wife of a cancer patient.  I knew nothing about leukemia except that it killed people.  I was terrified.  I remember so clearly that first week in the hospital.  We were so young, and so clueless and so completely and horribly scared of our future, or whether or not we even had one together.  You need to understand that I was (and still am) completely and totally madly in love with this man.  He was my whole world.  He made me feel whole and was the only person who made me feel like I made any sense at all.  And I thought I was losing him.  My first response was anger at God followed closely by paralyzing fear. But I knew there had to be something God was going to do that required this of me – of us.  I believed God was who He said He was still. 

During the first week that Ricky was in the hospital, we decided to attend a chapel service.  We were so desperately searching for God’s assurance or guidance or something that would help us to process and understand this terrible thing that was happening. The chaplain preached a message out of the book of John.  He said that sometimes God uses sickness, pain or death to teach us, to grow us, to move us to greater faith.  He read through the story of Lazarus in John 11 and talked about how everything that happened allowed God’s glory to be revealed and proclaimed.  I read John 11:4 that said, “This sickness is not unto death but that the glory of God may be revealed.”

I spent a lot of time over the next several months processing that scripture.  I prayed desperately for a miracle.  I knew that God was calling me to a deeper faith.  Calling me to trust Him with the thing that meant more to me than anything.  Calling me to a faith that could survive losing my husband.  Lazarus died after all.  He was brought back to life, but first he died.  I knew it was a possibility – a strong one – that my husband wouldn’t win this battle – that I would lose him.  I felt a bit like I was wrestling with God.  I was begging Him for assurance that I wouldn’t lose my husband, begging Him for a miracle.  He was telling me that I had to let go, and was asking me to trust Him for the outcome.  Ultimately I did.  I chose trust.  I knew there was nothing I could do but trust and obey and believe Him to be faithful.  Not long after, Ricky went into partial remission (although they don’t use that word with leukemia quite yet).  After about five years he went into further remission and now, over fifteen years since the initial diagnosis, there is still no sign of leukemia.  Although we know that it could return at any time, we both have a deeper understanding of what it means to trust God with the impossible.

Not long after my husband was diagnosed with leukemia, he entered a medical trial for a new drug that was supposed to have a dramatic impact on his specific type of leukemia.  It was not FDA approved yet, and there were a lot of unknown factors.  His doctors believed it was his best option (I truly believe it saved his life) and so we agreed and signed the million page document that told us all the things he couldn’t do while on the medication – such as other medications to avoid, foods to avoid, etc.  One of these things was that we shouldn’t conceive any children while he was on the drug since there could be no way of predicting what affect, if any, it would have on a developing child.  Keep in mind that I was 20 years old, newly married with a newborn baby girl.  We, of course, agreed and began to take every precaution to prevent pregnancy.  Although I knew it was the only option, I was still very sad and disappointed.  At the age of 20 I knew that I would never be able to have another child.  It was a terribly sad time for me.  I grieved for several years and even begged God for another child, even though I knew it was a crazy request.  For over five years I grieved over the children I would never have.  I eventually had to come to a place where I trusted God with my grief and with my dream as well.  I had to let it go to Him and trust that He knew what was best.  I had to give up my dream of having another child.

Less than a year after that moment of surrender, I became pregnant despite two forms of birth control.  I still don’t know how it happened.  It was a miracle of God. After five years of praying for another child, God had heard my plea.  He had answered my prayer.  He had fulfilled my wildest dream.  God does that.  Sometimes He does that.

In each of these situations, God answered my prayer.  Both times He fulfilled my deepest desire.  But also, both times He required me first to let go of that which meant the most to me.  There’s a pattern here that can’t be ignored.  Remember the story about Abraham?  Where God asked him to sacrifice his only son?  Let’s go back a bit farther.  This is before the ultimate sacrifice was asked of him, before the promise was fulfilled, before his son was born, before his name was changed to Abraham.  Here he was known as Abram.  This is such an important part of the story, so let’s go back to Genesis 15:1-6:

“After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram.  I am your shield, your very great reward.’  But Abram said, ‘Sovereign Lord, what can you give me since I remain childless and the one who will inherit my estate is Eliezer of Damascus?’  And Abram said, ‘You have give me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’  Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’  He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’  Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’  Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.”

God promised Abram a son.  More than that, though, he promised him a legacy.  He promised that his offspring, his lineage, would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  He promised him a hope and a future. That future – that God himself planned and promised – hinged on Abraham having a child, a son.

Fast forward to Genesis 21:1-5 where God fulfilled His promise to Abraham:

“Now the Lord was gracious to Sarah as he had said, and the Lord did for Sarah what he had promised.  Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to the son Sarah bore him.  When his son Isaac was eight days old, Abraham circumcised him, as God commanded him.  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.”

Abraham obeying God’s command to kill his son, Isaac, is a story of sacrifice.  However, in light of the original promise in Genesis 15 it is the very ultimate sacrifice.  God wasn’t just asking Abraham to give up his son.  He was asking him to give up the son that he had prayed for, begged for, dreamed of and on whom his entire future was depending on.  He wasn’t just asking him to sacrifice something of significance.  He was asking him to sacrifice that which held the very most significance to him – that which he couldn’t imagine his life without.  He wasn’t interested in some sacrifice.  He desired all, everything, the very most and nothing less.

He asks the same of us.  To let go of that which means the most to us, to give it to Him.  To sacrifice our own desires, dreams, hopes and futures in order to love Him more fully and trust Him more deeply.

Sacrifice requires trust.  Trust that God will keep His promise.  Trust that God will come through.  Trust that no matter the outcome, He is working it out for my good and for His glory.  Deep abiding trust.

Deeper faith begins with a deeper trust.  You cannot believe God will come through if you don’t first trust that He is ABLE to come through.  You cannot expect His faithfulness unless you first believe Him to be faithful.  Abraham trusted God.  He would never have made the trek up the mountain to sacrifice his one and only son if he didn’t trust that God could and would find a way to bring him back to life.  “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Abraham trusted God’s faithfulness because He knew God’s character.  Abraham trusted God’s promise because He knew Him to be trustworthy.

And He is.

He is so faithful.