An honest look at missions

I’m wrestling against an enemy I cannot see.  Right now, our family is making some difficult decisions regarding missions for this year.  As I sat at the dinner table last night, a raw thought spilled out of my mouth.

This used to be fun, I said resting my fork on the table and blankly staring out the window.

You know, the mission decision.  It was exciting.  Adventurous.  A radical move of following God where He leads.  Now, I am so twisted up in knots I can’t think straight.

My children looked at me in bewilderment.  This wasn’t their fearless mother who encourages, instructs and motivates her children to say YES! to God before we know the question.

I hesitate to write any further in the event I come off sounding like a whiny, spoiled American.  The fact is, I have nothing to complain about on a global spectrum of needs.  I feel guilty for even writing this post because I have no room to complain compared to the billions of other people who share this planet.

But, I am also human.  Finite.  Flawed.  I have weaknesses I cannot deny, and it’s those weaknesses that want to keep me from leaving my nest.  I have feelings.  I have emotions.  Sometimes when thinking about missions I wonder how much my heart can take when I see the most basic of needs or witness the power-hungry, cruelty of humanity.

I am a woman who has been on 2 different mission trips to very different parts of the world – Africa and eastern Europe.  On each trip, I’ve never felt so alive.  So…New Testament, if you will.  I’ve never in my life cast everything aside to follow God and trust Him for every step.  It was blind faith like I’ve never had before.  It was perfect peace that is ridiculous to the world’s ears.  So, why aren’t I dragging out our bags and grabbing our passports this year?

I will be completely honest and tell you it is fear.

You see, when I went on those trips, I had no idea what to expect.  The trips were going to be what they were, and I was perfectly fine with that because I didn’t know any differently.  I lived moment-to-moment in each continent and abandoned all of my plans, agenda, requirements, everything.  I fully immersed myself in the culture and in God’s leadership.

However, when we returned from Kenya two summers ago, a tsunami-sized wave of what if scenarios hit me hard and brought me to my knees.

My eyes were no longer blind to what could happen on a mission trip, or simply traveling overseas by myself or with our children.  I know it was the enemy that tried hard to steal my joy of all that God did on that mission trip, and I felt powerless to stop him because what could I say?  God never promised safe passage, only that we’d never be alone in it.

There were times when we were completely relying on God to help us – like when we arrived in Nairobi and customs took far longer than we thought.  The driver who was to pick us up at the airport, when the clock finally struck midnight and the airport was closing, wasn’t there.

I thought, That’s okay.  Our leaders have this under control.  I’ll just wait with the kids and our luggage until something works out.

On a warm summer afternoon, as we drove back from visiting a school totally off the grid, rain began to fall.  The water mixed with the powdery dust and made the roads as slippery as ice.  Our van slid and skid and we hung on tight as I looked out the window to see deep trenches on either side of our van.  I simply hung on, smiling, knowing everything would be alright.

When our oldest son fell at an orphanage and suffered a severe, and I mean severe, concussion, we did all we could for him without the availability of any proper means for exam or treatment.  In fact, the next day we had to travel hours to another school, which proved to be the worst roads I’ve ever been on.  We were literally thrown out of our seats for the hours-long ride.  Not at all what a concussion patient needs to rest and mend.  However, choices were limited and we trusted God with our son’s health – in addition to pain relievers and waking him up every two hours and doing all we cold to keep him comfortable.

Even on the safari we had the privilege to take after our mission work was done proved to make the hair stand up on my neck.  At one point, our Land Rover got lodged on a large boulder on an incline up a mountain.  If that wasn’t nerve-racking enough, there happened to be two Cape Buffalo on either side of our vehicle, so close we cold touch them.  Our driver was out of cell phone reach and we were stuck.  That was one moment when I truly felt like I was going to have a panic attack as our vehicle had no windows or roof.  We wound up having to back off the boulder, going straight down the mountain backwards.  Oh my soul.

Upon our arrival back in the States, something in the water the ONE TIME my husband and I consumed it via ice on the plane made us so sick we wanted to die.  We broke our family’s 8-year streak of not throwing up.  Friends had to come take our kids to their homes so Bruce and I could just lie there and not talk or move or anything for days.  It was wicked.

I could go on and tell of the times that I felt vulnerable and completely out of my element…but it was awesome.  When I was at my weakest, God was at His strongest. Never have I needed to rely on Him more.

I could tell you how much I learned from the loving Kenyan people that contentment is a state of mind, not a tangible luxury.  They blew me away with how happy they were in the midst of suffering, gentle in the face of hardship, at peace in the midst of crisis.

I could tell you about a little girl, 5 or 6 years old, who lost her leg in a fire and dragged her little body on her stomach every week from her house to church – by herself.  The church, using scrap lumber from a donation to build a small, plywood structure, constructed a crutch for her, and how team members with us made some phone calls and lo and behold a pediatric prosthetic surgeon was going to be making her first-ever visit to this region and with donations from our church this precious little girl now has a prosthetic leg and runs and plays with the rest of her friends for the first time.  Her mom, a former prostitute, was so overwhelmed by the love of the church that she gave her life to Christ and has begun an honorable career to provide for them both.

I could tell you about the wonderful man who runs a dearly loved orphanage with children that we fell in love with so much our hearts nearly burst.  He has dedicated his life to providing for these children, when he himself lost his oldest son in a piki piki (motorcycle) accident last summer.  Yet, he continues to serve these precious little ones who are so full of promise if only they would be given a chance.

I met a boy at this orphanage who is so brilliantly smart, will he ever have an opportunity to change the world?

Our daughter fell head over heals in love with a little girl at this orphanage and the two became inseparable.  A photo of the two of them hangs on the wall of her bedroom still today.

The worship, the joy and the trust these Kenyans have in God is breathtaking.

In Ukraine this past summer, we met some of the most inspiring young people I’ve ever seen.  They are a new generation whose hope is in God of the possible.  They welcomed us as family from the first greeting, and clung to us in sorrowful tears when we left.  They are unlike any group of teens I know.  They have committed themselves to the leadership of their church.

Working with them was such an honor!  They don’t know the word impossible, and have a pure faith in Jesus that is hard to find in the States.  A few boys and girls befriended me and I carry them in my heart still today.

One young boys’ dream is to come to the States so he can be healed of his crippling disease and deaf ears.  His heart is so tender and smile so big, he captivated me with his gentle spirit and quiet determination to be involved in what everyone was doing with us.

However, the remnants of Soviet control are everywhere – and it was daunting.  The search light towers, barbed wire, and antiquated barracks of military and political oppression were merely feet from us and proved to be an ominous presence for a woman like myself who has never been more grateful for her freedom in the United States.

I also had one of the worst sinus infections I’ve ever experienced the day we were to return home.  Flying with a 101.5 fever and climbing, a head so stopped up I could hardly hear and definitely couldn’t breathe well, it took everything in me to step on the plane. The first leg of the flight was 10 hours, then an overnight stay and connecting flight.  I tried to count the hours until I could get to a doctor, as well as muster the courage to get on the second flight.

But for the time being, I had to succumb to the fact that I would be airborne for 10 hours with this horribly severe sinus infection. I wanted to just let the luggage fall off my shoulders and let my body fall into a heap in the middle of the airport.  I wanted to cry. But, I had to keep moving.

On both missions, the good outweighed the bad for sure.  But here I sit with some big decisions to make with my husband.  Dynamics are different this year.  We are confused. I can’t hear clearly because of the what-ifs taunting me.

It would be so easy, so comfortable, to just say no this year.  We have a full life right here, and most days we feel we are hanging on by our fingernails.  We wonder if it’s too much to ask of our children again.  Perhaps some will stay home?  Perhaps not.  Bruce’s work is a demanding job, and he enjoys it very much.  But, it consumes a lot of his time and as a wife I worry about balance in his life.  Can he handle missions this summer, or will it be too taxing on him mentally, physically or emotionally?  I get concerned about my own health, as since traveling overseas I’ve realized my ankles blow up like balloons and am not sure how bad or not this is for me.  I wear compression hose, but still…  Also, our typhoid shots expire soon and we may need new ones.  Will this be the time one of us has a reaction to the vaccine?  Will the fundraising come in as I honor my husband’s (and children’s) requests (which is also my heart’s desire) to stay home for this season of life as wife and mother and we live on one income?  Will international travel go okay this go round?  Will more injuries occur?  Will more illness break out?

So many questions burden my heart.

The first time around, we were giddy knowing that God simply said Go.  Ignorance truly was bliss.

Now, we’re not so naive, and the knowledge I’ve gleaned about serving on short-term mission trips scares me.  There is so much that could go wrong that I never ever imagined. Now my eyes are open and I kind of wish they weren’t.

I have a whole new appreciation for Christ’s words to pick up our cross daily and follow Him.

To go or not to go isn’t about leaving my comfort zone, although I shocked myself with how uncomfortable I was feeling dirty the entire time in Africa.  I hid these feelings and they turned into shame and guilt – which discouraged my desire for missions.

I was overwhelmed the entire time we were in Ukraine regarding the language barrier.  I remember riding in a bus on the highway trying to make any sense of the billboards.  It was almost a panicky feeling that swept over me in an enormous need to simply read or hear English in the community.  Again, I was so ashamed of these negative feelings I hid them.  Stuffed them.  And the enemy is using them against me.

Perhaps some of it is a loss of control of my life on mission.  I am a team member and follow the leaders.  Here in my daily life, although Bruce is surely the head of our house, I am the site manager who oversees the house, kids, volunteering, everything that is in the scope of my job while he is as his job.

Empty hands feel odd.

I’m so okay with following an agenda bigger than myself, the loss of sleep, the different foods, etc. so what’s my problem?

I don’t like flying at all.  I must leave some creature comforts at home – and with my back that’s easier said than done.  And I’m afraid of the known and unknown.  Okay.  I said it.

I hate admitting fear because it’s admitting a lack of trust in God, and I want to trust God with everything in me.  Mark 9:22-24 sums up my heart the best.  In the words of a worried and scared father over his possessed child…

“…But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.

If you can? said Jesus.  Everything is possible for him who believes.

Immediately the boys’ father exclaimed, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Yes, God, I do believe…help me overcome my unbelief.

I’ve been yearning for direction and confirmation about what to do for missions this year. We feel the squeeze of time to make decisions.  I’m so tangled up in this I can’t think straight.

Oh how I wish I could just say, Yes, now what’s the question?

However, yesterday we received a letter from our Compassion daughter in Africa.  She has had such a hard life – losing her mom and dad – yet she has accomplished a nursing degree and is now working and supporting herself and her little brother.  We are so proud of her.  She’s come a long way since she became a part of our family when she was only 7 years old, living with her grandmother and brother.

In her recent letter, she told us her grandmother died and she is working in a different town than where she grew up.  She has had family and location changes.  Totally out-of-the-blue, in her letter to us she wrote, I encourage you don’t worry, for God is with you everywhere you are and He has good plans.


I have been struggling inside over what to do about missions.  I have been beside myself and lay awake at night and mull it over and over in my head. I continue to ask God, but my thoughts drown out His voice. Our Compassion daughter’s words jumped off the page and into my heart.  Of all the letters over the last 14 years from her, it was this letter and her words at this time.  It is no coincidence.

Our Compassion daughter, who we’ve supported by paying for her food, clothing, education, etc. throughout the years in hopes that she will come to have a fulfilling life, saved by grace, provided me the wisdom I needed to hear at the exact moment I needed to hear it.  All these years I’ve been trying to bless her, and, as a fully grown woman she blessed me with Truth that I know, but cannot hear above the fear.

I was her mission ground, and her words all the way from Africa penetrated my heart and helped me believe again.

It’s with a broken heart, having seen the needs of this world God so dearly loves, and a mind submitted to God’s sovereignty, that I cannot resist Him anymore.  His love is contagious. His mercy divine.  His call undisputed.  His promise to never leave me is enough.

I will go.  Where?  I don’t know.  But I do know that my answer is Yes.

So Lord, she asks with a trusting heart and trembling hands, what is the question?

What he said, she said about love

Happy 2013!!

I am so excited to continue this blog into a new year – this is a first!  We have 364 more days to traverse together, God willing.  Before launching forward, I want to share a December moment that I hope will be a blessing to you.  Ironically, this moment of the recent past has become a springboard in my life for a better future.  So perhaps this Christmas post does have a rightful home here today as I pray the same encouragement for you.

This Christmas was our first time using our new advent candles (via a recent post).  I really didn’t know how this would work out, and felt like I was bucking the system making up our own.

Turns out, we have had more meaningful conversation surrounding these candles than any other year ever.  On the 4th Sunday, we lit the 4th candle, the red candle of love.


We asked the same question around the table, Anyone have a story of love they’d like to share?  My husband, Bruce, spoke up, I’ve got one.

He continued, looking at our children, Your mom and me.  She’s the only one for me.  Over two decades ago, she accepted me just the way I was – failures, flaws and all.  She was way out of my league.  I am still amazed that she chose to love me, but I’m glad she did.

I listened, then added with a contemplative smile, That’s funny, because I remember it very differently.  I couldn’t believe you wanted me!  I was such a mess.  I was a broken person with a shattered life, who felt very unlovely and unlovable.  You were my knight in shining armor.  You swept me off my feet – especially in your Air Force uniform.

Two people.  Two very different stories about the same love affair.  How could this be?

There was one common denominator that went far beyond our starry-eyed love for each other.  It was God’s love for us – and still is.  He is the God who saw our whole lives, and purposed to intertwine them together.  We have always loved each other, but it is God’s unending love for each of us and for our marriage that is the foundation, the glue, the common ground on which we stand – even if we don’t always see eye-to-eye or momentarily dislike one another.

We read 1 Corinthians 13, known as the love chapter, and we see what we strive to be to one another.  However, when I look at our marriage through God’s eyes, I see His vision for us, as well as where He implements this passage in our relationship.

God is 1 Corinthians 13 to us because God is love (1 John 4:16 ).  Knowing He has our back gives us strength to show love to one another.

God gave up His only Son out of love for the world.  Each December, we begin the reflection of this great sacrifice at Christmas as we walk Jesus’ timeline on this earth.  We do this every year in honor, remembrance, and celebration.

Spouses can have this same love in their marriages as well.  Whether it is as Christmastime, New Year’s, or any of the other 363 days of the year, we can light God’s light of love in our relationships. We do this not in our own strength, but in His.

God is for marriage – the way He intended it to be.  God is for His children who are the husbands and wives that make up the millions of marriages in this world.  It pleases Him to see men and women living in healthy, loving, covenant community with one another.

If you’ve come to a point in your marriage where the light seems all but extinguished, hope is elusive, and warm hearts have turned cold, seek God first.  Ask Him again to be God of your marriage.

He is the tie that binds when we are frayed and frazzled.

I look back at the beginning of “us” and am in awe at how differently Bruce and I saw the beginning of our relationship.  Both broken.  Both flawed.  Both dependent on God alone to guide us by His mighty hand.

We’ve called on that same hand for twenty-two years.  To hold.  To warm.  To lead.  To sustain.  It is strong enough to carry any load.

Because we have been forgiven and set free from our sins, as believers, we have total freedom to love each other as Christ loves the church, even as we still wrestle with our carnal natures.

It will always be a mystery to me that God can take two broken people and create one whole marriage.  I’ve never been good at math, but how does 1 + 1 = 1?

Scrapping the math book (gladly, I might add) I turn to the Bible for the answer.

“Haven’t you read,” (Jesus) replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.” ~ Matthew 19:4-6

I believe with all my heart that one of the main issues tearing marriages apart is that husbands and wives fall into the trap that in an argument, touchy topic, or whatever threatens to divide, there must be a winner and loser.  In a marriage, if there is both a winner and loser, both people lose – and so does the marriage.

We must daily remind ourselves that we are on the same team.  I know.  I’ve been both the winner and the loser and neither position was productive in our relationship.

When we take sides, we divide what God declared as one entity.  This only leads us farther down the wrong path.

As 2013 begins, may I challenge each of us to examine our relationship with God, with our spouses and all of our relationships?  Are we loving others as He loves us?

No matter how wonderful or not our marriages are today, there is a whole year just waiting to happen.  We will ride the highs and feel ran over by the lows.  Today.  Today we must decide what our plan will be.  That begins with God’s plan.

Whether you are married, engaged, or seriously dating, one New Year’s resolution worthy of doing (not just making) is to pray for these relationships, release our control of them, submit to God and His plan, and love as Christ loves us and gave Himself up for us.

Let’s make this year, 2013, the year God has full-reign in our hearts, minds and actions for His glory and our good – and all of this begins at home.

What do our relationships look like from God’s perspective?  Read with me 1 Corinthians 13 as God Himself sets the example for each of us to follow…

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

God’s grace, peace and blessings to you this new year,


The Worst, Best Date

I am excited to continue the bake sale stories, but feel in my heart there is another direction God wants to go in today.  At this time of year, when everything is spinning out of control for so many – finances of holiday shopping, workloads to prepare for time off, housework for impending guests, final exams for kids, tempers and attitudes on edge, and the ever-high expectations, either internal or external, to make this the best holiday season yet – is there any hope of catching our breath?

Hardly!  With tragic events pounding people everywhere like waves of a relentless tsunami, both personal and national, it seems that there is nothing calm and bright about Christmas.

But wait!  There is something we can do that will make a huge and lasting difference in our families.

Spouses need a date night.  Everyone talks about husbands and wives needing a break from the precious little ones and their needs.  Yes, that is true.  But as the parent of two teens and a tween, just because they don’t need help with nearly as much as they used to doesn’t mean there is a ton of flexible time for my husband and me.

In fact, those late nights of bottle-feeding and rocking in the early years are replaced with the hum of our computer and ticking keyboards working hard past midnight as research papers, studying for tests and daily homework consumes sleeping hours.

Trying to get little ones to try new foods has turned into trying to make sure everyone has had some protein and good carbs before jumping on the hamster wheel at work and school for the day as they race out the door with a briefcase and 50# backpacks.

The “one more story” or “drink of water” delays at bedtime of past years has transitioned to me falling asleep on their beds waiting for them to finish caring for their braces, packing up their school things, and remembering everything the next day’s demands.

The energy exuded in conversations of the past about how clouds form and why trees drop their leaves has risen to epic proportions as we deal with the hard issues of the real world that has barged, often uninvited, into their childhoods.

I wish I could tell young parents that things get easier as kids get older, but it doesn’t (though the benefits of parenting teens are amazing!). The issues just change.  Serious problems occur in the family when the parents and children can’t/won’t change with them.

In order for that to happen, a major player in the scenario is that a marriage needs time. Time alone.  Time to decompress. Time to talk, fight, laugh and just chill.

I am as predictable as the sunrise in our marriage.  When time is neglected in our marriage, I become instinctively impossible to live with.  I’m grumpy, angry, edgy and moody towards my man.  Sounds like a party, huh?

Every time I find that my husband can’t do anything right, I’ve learned to stop and ask myself why I am being so critical.  Ninety-nine percent of the time it’s because of a lack of time being poured back into our marriage.

Marriages that function solely on autopilot eventually crash.

Holidays can be the worst for this scenario.  Recognizing this, once again, as my intolerance seems to be an unfortunate Christmas tradition, I asked Bruce for some time. The kids agreed.  Ha!  Even they see the signs.  Like a stomach churning with hunger or a headache from dehydration, symptoms exist for time-deficit in a marriage.  A marriage is a living thing that needs to be cared for just as our bodies do. We feed and clothe our bodies.  Likewise, we need to nourish and clothe our marriages to keep them strong and healthy, and to protect them from outside elements.  So off we went.

Bruce asked me, Wanna see a movie?


Wanna go to dinner?

Nah.  I’m not hungry.

Wanna go Christmas shopping for the kids?

Nah.  I’m not in the mood.

Boy, I’m a tough sell.  What I really wanted was some private time for conversation with my husband to connect, discuss, and communicate uninterrupted – before midnight when neither of us are at our best or via text or email as is often the case.

I told him just that, so we drove off with well-wishes from the kids for our date night. Our daughter was especially excited about our “date” as she loves a good love story.

We wound up parked outside a familiar book store.  He suggested we go in, get some Starbucks, and relax in the big, frumpy chairs in the calm atmosphere of book-lovers.

It was raining and cold outside – the perfect night for a bookstore date.

I replied that I didn’t want to go inside.  I just wanted to sit.

There is no privacy in there.  I just want to talk to you without anyone else around, I explained.

So be it.  He turned the car off and there we sat.  In the dark.  In the rain.  In the chilly night air filling the car with people coming and going from the parking spaces all around us.

We talked for an hour.  A precious, uninterrupted 60 minutes (before having to pick up one of our children).  We were finally able to work through some things that had laid ignored out of a lack of time or energy, make plans, talk about feelings (yes, I just said that), and reconnect.

We never left the car.  After picking up our teen, we returned home and were greeted by our daughter.

So, what’d ya do?  What fun did you have?  You so deserve it.  Tell me!  Tell me!

Well, I replied, we drove to the bookstore, parked and sat in the car and talked.

She scrunched up her face, tilted her head to the side and said with a completely confused and anti-climatic tone, That’s it?  That’s what you did?

To her, it was a downer of a date.  Boring.  Uneventful.  Weird.

To me, it was awesome!  I got the full attention of my man for an hour in the midst of a blessedly crazy season of life.

If you haven’t taken time with your spouse lately, I encourage you to do it.  I’ll never forget the advice someone once gave us a long time ago when, as newlyweds, we were completely broke and were consumed with working our way through college together. He said, You should go on dates  now with your spouse because it’s a lot cheaper  – and more fun – than therapy later if you don’t.

Some may believe the trap that they can’t afford to take the time or spend the money, but based on statistics of marital problems and divorce, I beg to differ that marriages can’t afford not to do it.  This date night of reconnecting doesn’t cost anything, but the time spent investing in reconnecting is priceless and gives us something to treasure – and the entire family reaps the reward.

The Bake Sale Lesson

2012 8th annual samaritan's purse bake sale

Eight years ago, a gift catalog appeared in our stack of December mail.  This one was unlike any I’d ever seen.  It was from Samaritan’s Purse.  In it, gifts could be purchased for people all over the world.  However, the gifts surprised us.  No jewelry, trendy clothes or home decor items.  The catalog offered basic needs that much of the world goes without every day.  Water, dairy animals, blankets, mosquito nets, medical supplies…you name it.  Our family was instantly captivated.

Sitting at the kitchen table after school, I showed our children (then ages 4, 6, and 8) the catalog and told them they could each pick out an item.  Their three items equaled $39.  Just then, the Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, Make this a teachable moment.  

How? I replied.

He sort of just spilled the words out of my mouth when I asked the kids, How are you going to pay for this?

All three of them pointed their fingers at me and said, You?

Ah!  Now I understood the teachable lesson part.

If I pay for these things, then the gifts are from me.  Giving a gift has to cost you something – time, energy, or money.  So, how are you going to pay for these?

They decided on a lemonade stand.  Great!  So we mixed 2 pitchers of lemonade and a couple dozen chocolate chip cookies, set up a cardboard table and sat on the corner of our yard and waited for passers by. By the end of the afternoon, our goal of $39 was blown away with a grand total of $370!

Fast forward 7 years.

Each year the bake sale has grown as more people want to be involved.  Every year is filled with heartfelt stories, and how I wish I could write forever and tell them all. However, this year was different than any other.

We love hosting this bake sale.  And, we are extremely grateful for the whopping 29 bakers that contributed to it this year.  We are thankful for Starbucks and Great Harvest Bread Co. who generously donated to the cause.

In the early planning stages, people who visit the sale every year began to show their excitement, asking when it would be and if we needed any help.  I was home recovering from foot surgery, so I had much free time to spare while stuck on the couch so plans kept rolling on.

This sale has become such a beautiful event.  People bring their children, their dogs, and their donations, and we love serving them with a smile as 100% of their money goes to purchase items from the Samaritan’s Purse gift catalog.  Even Samaritan’s Purse calls us each year, once they receive the grand total, and chat about how the bake sale went.  God’s blessing on this sale is apparent.  But, this year there was a problem…

The problem was me.

Here at RealDeepStuff, everything written is real whether it’s deep or just stuff.  My problem was real and it is deep.

It is the main sin I struggle with on a daily basis.  Everyone has them.  Sin that seems nearly impossible to separate from who we are.  They are our weaknesses.  Chinks in the armor.  Achilles’ heel.  For me, this major player is the sin of self sufficiency.

It is a daily struggle in my prayer life, personal life, marriage, parenting, relationships with friends, work, etc.  This two-headed dragon seems to creep up everywhere.  I know the Scriptures about God must be more and we must be less and how we should rely on Him, but honestly the familiar Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, somehow became I can do all things through Christ – period!  

This year, I felt pressure to get my foot healed up (which it still isn’t) so I hit the ground running twice as fast.  After all, it’s a good event for a good cause to expand the kingdom, help others, glorify God, and teach our children it is better to give than receive.  So when the Holy Spirit reminded me that we needed to pray about the bake sale, and seek God’s will for it, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday.

I stood in my kitchen at the sink when His words came to me.  My sinful response?  Eh, it’s not really necessary, and I continued my work.

Whoa.  Why did I say that?  Easy – because I’ve put this sale together for 7 years.  It’s practically on auto-pilot.  We tweak it every year with what we learn, but planning it in general is second nature.

I actually found myself wondering what there could be to prayer about other than wanting His desired items being ordered from the catalog.

I had fallen hook, line and sinker for the enemy’s trap of self-reliance.  It’s as though I said to God, It’s okay, I got this.

How dare I leave His voice out.  It’s like throwing a birthday party and not inviting the guest of honor.  I broke His heart in that moment, and He began a teachable lesson for me this time.

Plans continued, but it seemed so flat.  Buy the correct permit – check.  Arrange for parking signs – check.  Notify a friend who is a police officer of the sale – check.  Make sure all bakers have what they need – check.  Borrow tables, cabanas, and buy cabanas – check.  Run a ton of electrical – check.  And so on and so on.  However, no one else knew this, but preparations were dry to me.  Numb.  Same ‘ol same ‘ol.  And, the bread company didn’t return my 4 calls, 2 personal visits or the 1 flyer we left with them.  I just couldn’t understand it.  They’ve partnered with us for 3 years.  What changed?  I found the planning to be frustrating and unfulfilling.

God had not left the bake sale.  This is His baby!  He was definitely in it, but He was silent.  When I ignored praying to Him because I had the audacity to think we could do this on our own, but for His glory, He said, So be it.  And let me be.

His silence was deafening.

One day, while running errands, I couldn’t ignore it anymore.  The guilt   The shame.  The sin.  Tears welled in my eyes as He let me experience His broken heart.  My heart nearly burst from the overwhelming sadness He allowed me to feel.

Oh God, I am so sorry.  I left You out of the plans because I thought I can handle it.  But You want to be a part of this.  This event thrills Your heart, and I’ve denied Your voice, opinions and direction out of relying on myself.  I am so sorry.  I can see now what it’s like to serve You without You, and I don’t want to do it this way anymore.  Will You forgive me, God?  Will You be the focus of this bake sale in guiding, directing and planning every part of it?  I need You and can feel how much You want to be in this.  God…I’m really sorry.

In an instant He forgave me, faithful to Himself and His covenant to us, even when we are unfaithful to Him.  It’s like He rolled up his sleeves with a wide grin and said, Alright then.  Let’s get to work!  

From that moment on, this bake sale was unlike any we’ve ever had.  He breathed life into the sale and into me.  He was all over it, and the joy He ignited in my heart was uncontainable.  Such enthusiasm I have not felt in a long time.  He blessed this day with so much love, compassion and excitement it was all I could do to stand and soak it in.  I can still barely talk about it without emotion.  Perhaps in my flesh I could have prepared a bake sale.  But, by God’s power, people’s lives were changed.  His Spirit was so present, I could barely find words to speak throughout the entire 8 hour sale.

In my next post, I will share some of the stories of the people who were a part of the sale.  I invite you back here to read them, and know you, too, will be changed.

For now, I will once again offer the prayer that I’ve said a thousand times, but at first neglected to do this year – and my sin nearly made me miss the blessing of this bake sale.  Whatever ministry you are a part of, whether it be personal toward family and friends, in your job or in volunteering, don’t make the mistake I made thinking I could do it on my own.  It is a sin that America has believed for far too long.

May we never be found guilty of refusing God’s help because of self-reliance, pride, ignorance, callousness or indifference to what He wants.  May what He wants be what we pursue.

In the words of Moses, we pray… Then Moses said to (the LORD), “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here.  How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”  And the Lord said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Exodus 33:15-17

Would you like to know how He made these verses real to me?  Tangibly real?  Two days before the bake sale, in a last-ditch effort, I called the bread company again – just to see.  The manager ever-so-casually told me that they indeed had been preparing for our sale and I could come pick everything up.  I was shocked!  But not really.  I believe with all my heart that God intentionally let me sweat it out.  A good parent appropriately disciplines his child, and God is a good Father.  I think He allowed the silence to draw me to Him, but in the moment I was too tangled up in the details and missed His cue.

However, I was totally unprepared for what met me at the store when I went to pick up their donations.  There they were…bags and bags and bags and bags of delicious treats.  My breathe caught in my chest as I stood utterly speechless, fighting a tear trickling down my cheek.  It took 2 trips to the store to collect it all.  They had, all along, been in communication with the other store location, and had agreed to combine their efforts and gave us a massive amount of beautiful baked goods.

I…I don’t know what to say, I stuttered to the owner.

It’s just so much more than I ever thought, I said, staring at the counters full of bags.

The owner simply smiled and gave me a hug and wished our bake sale well.

I got in the van and rested my hands on the steering wheel.  Pausing before I turned on the ignition, I said to God with a tearful smile, You did this. You had this planned all along.  I was so worried.  So stressed out.  So anxious.  And here You are.  You delivered and You delivered big.  Thank You, Lord.  And God, I get Your point.

Ephesians 3:20-21 immediately came to mind, 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.

It was a great day that God just blew the doors off of.  I can’t wait to share with you in my next post the fingerprints He left on this bake sale and on the hearts who were touched by His vision…

Christmas Joy

This season, I’ve been acutely aware of the blessings in life.  Perhaps it’s the season’s Spirit of joy, but oftentimes there is also a lot of stress associated with Christmas – unfortunately.  I don’t want to forget the recent moments that have brought a smile or a laugh to the day, so I decided to write them down and will continue to throughout the month.  Share a smile with me…

* Standing in our front yard with my man as he laughs at my attempt to assemble and inflate the inflatable snowman in our front yard.  I’m not a huge fan of lawn ornamentation, but Frosty found us and so he stays.  Anyway, in an effort to streamline decorating, I put Frost up myself this year.  I guess I couldn’t have done it any more wrong.  Hey, that’s why I married an engineer – because I’m not one!

* Enjoying the show the Salvation Army bell ringers put on in NYC.  Wow!  These people love their jobs!  Singing, dancing, grooving…it was quite a show and made everyone’s day a little brighter.


* Came home the other day to find the nicest surprise!  My neighbor has a lawn service, but we don’t.  When their lawn guy came this week and did their lawn, he also blew off our leaf-covered driveway.  What a treat!

* Sitting around the dinner table, the meal long since finished, and just listening to our kids tell jokes and recite movie lines.  My man looked at me from across the table and I knew what he said to me with his eyes – and I agree…Yes, this IS what it’s all about, Honey.

* Dressing up our dog in her Mrs. Claus outfit to pick out our Christmas tree at the hardware store.  A red satin dress, velvet ruffled collar and hat with wig.  Oh it’s just too much. 🙂  She loves a car ride, and going to get the tree was a special treat.


* Wrapping presents with my oldest for precious boys and girls in our community, and laughing with my boy at how he’s always had a hard time with, in his words, crafts.  Hey, it took me years of practice to get curling ribbon down.

* Spontaneously having a family sing-a-long while our baby girl played the Christmas music she’s learned on the piano.

* The smell of pine tree-scented candles.

* Our annual quest to find the perfect egg nog.  Nothing beats the Farm Stores brand I grew up with, but we’ll keep suffering through the samples. 😉

* Serving with my family and friends at Operation Christmas Child.  It is an amazing ministry that we are blessed to be a part of every year.  I love taking people for the first time and watching them be overwhelmed with joy at the work and the generosity of humankind on the behalf of God’s love love for the world.  What a great night!



* Watching an elderly couple walk in front of me into an office building.  Although they were very old, and walked slowly, they held hands as they went.  What a picture it was.  He was in his twill coat and scarf.  She donned her long coat and knitted hat.  One walked with a cane.  Both were still in love.  They held hands tightly as they entered the building, discussing which elevator button to push.  It was a fleeting moment I am so glad I didn’t miss.  They personified beautiful, committed, tender love.  I think about all they must have seen in their lifetimes: the wars, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, homes, jobs, etc. and yet they still walk together – holding hands.  May all of us be so blessed.

* The silly elf hat my man bought our baby girl at the grocery store.  It’s really cute on her!  When they walked into the house, I said to her (wearing the hat) with a smile, So, what did you talk your dad into buying?  She smiled back, Oh, nothing.  Bruce and I do not have a problem saying no to our kids – they would agree!  It makes me smile to imagine what their conversation must have been somewhere between the produce and milk aisles about this green and red striped hat with sewn-on pointed ears.  He caved.  She’s adorable!  It’s all good.

* Thinking about my mother-in-law, whom I love dearly.  We spent Thanksgiving with her and extended family.  This year, we sat down to give thanks – including her being a new breast cancer survivor.  In the spring, when this news hit the whole family hard, I wondered what the fall would look like.  It surpasses my hopes!  She went with us to NYC and, little did we know, she got to fulfill a lifelong dream of seeing the giant Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center.  She still talks about it, and I am so touched to have been able to be there with her when she saw it in person for the first time. ~ Ephesians 3:20-21

* At church, there was a volunteer pushing a 6-seater buggy filled with some of the cutest toddlers you’ve ever seen.  This kind woman could have just walked them around, but she saw it as a teachable moment.  They stopped at a table with the manger scene on it.  She pointed out all of the people and what their role was in the stable that night.  These little ones can’t even say complete sentences yet, but this woman patiently went through each one.  She wasn’t telling it to them like a bedtime story…she was writing it on their hearts.  What a blessing it was for me to stand back and watch. ~ Deuteronomy 6:4-9

* I was at urgent care yesterday and am touched by seeing family and friends willing to risk catching all of the yuck going around in order to take, and sit with, their sick loved one.  Every seat was filled and every other person had a box of tissue on their laps.  Still, those healthy stayed by the side of those too sick to care for themselves.  ~ Matthew 25:34-40

* I don’t eat many desserts like cakes, pies – you know, the big hitters (chocolate notwithstanding).  For a special treat this weekend, I baked a Razzleberry pie (bought, not made!) for a kickoff to the Christmas season in our house.  To know my man is to know he LOVES pie!  His affection for pie is a joke, actually, in our family.  Razzleberry is his favorite tied with apple.  For 22 years, I have always saved the last slice for him, because it’s a way to show him I love him because I know how much he loves his pie.  Well, I was alone in the house, and one piece remained in the fridge.  Twenty-two years I left that last slice alone, but licking my wounds from being sick, I did it.  I ate the last slice!  I even sprayed whipped cream on top.  Not only that, I lost myself in a quiet moment on my sofa with the Christmas tree in the corner and stockings hung over the fireplace, and I…well, I…I sort of…licked the plate!  Not since I was a mere child have a licked any plate.  I even giggled as I did it as if I was breaking some adult rule.  I was good.  So very good.

* Listening to Barbara Streisand’s rendition of Jingle Bells!  Streisand was one of my mom’s all-time favorite singers, and hearing this song makes me feel close to Mom again.

* The P.A. who helped me at a clinic yesterday was so incredibly nice!  After leaving an urgent care filled with very sick people and the stench of Lysol in the air, I didn’t know what to do.  Finding a clinic, this woman was friendly, kind and attentive.  She went above and beyond her duties and showed that she genuinely cared.  I wasn’t a number or a bother.  I was a person she wanted to help.  And with that, she gave me meds for a severe sinus infection…finally I’ll get some relief.  God bless her!

* Reading “The Smells of Christmas” with my youngest.  It’s a scratch & sniff picture book exactly like the one I had growing up.  Although we are both a bit old for picture books, if you can’t enjoy a child’s classic at Christmas, then when can you? 🙂

book website shortcut

* Running into a store the other night, a Salvation Army bell ringer was outside.  I simply cannot pass by one without putting something in the pot.  However, I don’t carry cash ever since my car was stolen – with my purse inside which was stolen by a 2nd set of thieves who found it thrown away by the joy riders who totaled my car (long story).  I literally didn’t have a dime on me and felt terrible.  Upon exiting, I looked at him and said, I’m so sorry I don’t have anything to give tonight.  Instead of making me feel worse, he said with a smile, That’s alright Ma’am, you have yourself a good night.  Grace!  I love it. 🙂  It’s better to give than receive, yes, but that night I loved receiving his grace!

* Hanging mistletoe and getting caught under it.

* Hearing my very favorite Christmas song, O Holy Night.  To me , it is Christmas worship and reminds me every time in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3 when the priests could not enter the temple, and all the Israelites “knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground” and worshiped, when the train of the LORD filled the temple.  All they could do, instead of their tasks, was worship.  May our Christmas be the same.  May we be overtaken by the presence and holiness of God that we stop our tasks, fall on our knees…and worship.  Some of the most spontaneous moments for worship for me have been doing the dishes, driving in the car, and doing the mundane things of the day.  Worship can happen anytime a heart draws near the Lord, and O Holy Night helps me do just that.

* Anticipating decorating our gingerbread house, and the fact that my kids are looking forward to it as much as I am.  I buy one early every season, when they are on sale, and it patiently waits until they are out of school for Christmas break.  Decorating the gingerbread house is just good ol’ fashioned fun, and makes all of us feel like little kids again!

* Trimming the tree.  Out of the whole Christmas tree process, I most enjoy reminiscing over the ornaments with my family.

*It all goes!  I’ve been on a purging binge for days now.  Before another Christmas goes by, we are purging everything we don’t need (thanks to the invasion I wrote about in Christmas Shocker).  It feels really good to know that items we no longer need will help another family have a wonderful holiday.  Toys and coats that are in great shape will make good presents.  It is indeed better to give than receive.

* Designing our Christmas card.  Even though I grumble about the to-do’s on the list, I love looking back at the year and the many ways God has moved, worked, healed and blessed our family.  It’s not all been rosy, but it’s all passed through the hands of our sovereign God who loves and works on our behalf.

Many of these Christmas blessings are very unassuming.  They would be easily missed if not intentionally sought.  Christmas isn’t necessarily made up of peak moments, rather it is weaved together with blessings that almost camouflage with life.  And, these blessings are often taken for granted.

The first Christmas, in Bethlehem, was much the same.  Unassuming.  Unnoticed by most.  Never a thought of looking for our Savior – much less have any room for His presence.  Christmas began in the Old Testament with hundreds of prophecies regarding Christ’s coming.  It continued into the New Testament with the birth of John the Baptist and Mary’s virgin conception and a never-before census which took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem – just like the prophecies said.  A long journey, probably filled with many silent moments interrupted only by the hooves of the donkey carrying Mary.

We may have come a long way with our modern Christmas festivities, but I can’t help but notice all of the very personal ways God’s love is still reaching.  Drawing.  Loving.

This season, for every beautiful moment that brings a smile to your heart, thank God for the gift that it is.  Seek Him in the large and small moments of the season (Deuteronomy 4:29).  He is in them all.  The best gifts need no bows or colorful wrapping paper.  After all, the very best gift was wrapped in cloth and laid in a feeding trough – for you and for me.

The curse of the Christmas squirrel

Picture it with me.  I’m driving down a 3-lane, busy road on my way to physical therapy today listening to Christmas music on the radio.  Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a squirrel runs into the street!

The little guy barely missed the first car in the far right lane.  A split second later, it ran into the middle lane with its tail bushed up and sheer panic on its face.  A car drove right over it – and the squirrel was momentarily safely frozen under the center of the car. Confused, upset and dazed it ran it circles and headed toward my lane.

I slammed on the brakes, breathed in a huge gasp, locked my arms, tightened my grip on the steering wheel and braced for impact.

Miraculously, as it ran into my lane, it spontaneously turned around and ran the other way with no seconds to spare – crossed two lanes of traffic and was safe, for now, in the median.

Whew.  The drama!  Never saw that coming.

Have you ever had a moment in your life when an ah-ha! moment thumped you on the head?

This was my moment.  God showed up and used that squirrel to remind me of a great lesson…

Don’t be the squirrel this Christmas!

I saw that squirrel as me, only doing what I know – trying to get from one side of the holidays to the other.

The cars are all of the things that the holidays get congested with from Thanksgiving to New Year’s: bargain shopping, wrapping, mailing, make the Christmas card, buy the envelopes, buy the stamps, pick up Christmas cards, address them, update addresses in master list, go back and buy more stamps, check on online orders to ensure timely delivery of surprises, cookie exchange, volunteering, church musical, decorate the house, buy kids’ clothes for the school’s holiday band concert, fuss with half-strings of working lights, buy more wrapping paper because I thought I had enough leftover from last year, neighborhood holiday party, friend’s Christmas party, prepare for party brunch, planning teachers’ gifts and neighbors’ baked goodies, return half of what I bought because it’s wrong, or a duplicate, or whatever, search for gifts that I hid in the house and now cannot find, begin the brigade of homemade ornaments, photo calendar, etc. that I make every year for my family, more volunteering, more Christmas lunches, and so on.  And all of that is on top of regular life 24/7.

Does your holiday list look similar to mine, give or take?

Everything on the list is good.  I want to do it all!  However, in trying to do it all my attitude waffles between Merry Christmas and ba humbug!

In fact, when we were in NYC, a rolling news ticker released a poll taken asking how many Americans would rather skip Christmas with its expense of time and money.  Sadly, the percentage was high.

That squirrel was the best thing that could’ve happened to me today.  I got a bird’s eye view of how we can look at Christmastime – trying to get through the holidays without becoming overtaken by commitments that just keep on coming…one after the other after the other.  Without any time to think or respond, we merely react – which usually doesn’t end well.

You know, at first I felt sorry for that frightened little squirrel.  It doesn’t know any better.  It’s just foraging for what it must to survive.  Then, as I looked in the rear view mirror to make sure it reached the median safely, I thought, Why did it run into the street if it saw cars coming?

I hear people, me included, sometimes complain about all there is to do during the holidays.  So, why are we running into the street when we see the cars zooming past?

At the risk of sounding like a total dweeb, my favorite video game is Frogger.  Remember that one?  I have the attention span of a gnat and therefore have no use for video games, but Frogger was my favorite Atari game.  The game starts out slow.  Easy.  Anyone can do it. Then, the next level is a little faster.  The level after that is faster and has added snakes and crocodiles and bonus points.  The levels get so intense it’s virtually impossible to get that frog safely across the street and river.

I know why we continue to dart the escalating holiday rush…we want the bonus points.

We want to prove to the world, and/or ourselves, that we can do it all.  We don’t want to disappoint anyone for any reason – and this can come at any expense including money, time, energy and even our health.

I came home from Thanksgiving travel sick as a dog.  I have been frustrated this week that I am doing all of the above mentioned things feeling horrible.  So why do them at this particular moment in time?  Why can’t I just put back on my pajamas and crawl into bed and get the rest I badly need and then continue with the list later stronger, healthier?

Bonus points.  Keeping the agenda going.  Self satisfaction to name a few.

Getting sick may just be God’s way of making me slow down so I don’t miss the moments that make up the Christmas season and not merely survive the month.

So.  Where do we go from here?

I know where I am going.  Nowhere.

I’m going to stay at level one.  The slow, easy level.

Chipping away at the to-do list, I will reassess my commitments – those I have been asked to do and those I have created for myself, and will prayerfully decide how and when to do them.  I will remember that these are activities I want to be involved in, and therefore my attitude should reflect that.  I will remember who I am doing all these things for, and that the who is always more important than the what.

Most importantly, I want to remember, and live out, the reason for the season – the love, hope and joy of the world’s largest birthday party – for Jesus!

When we break the curse of the Christmas squirrel, with all of its harriedness, worry, angst, exhaustion and self-imposed chaos, we have room in our hearts, minds, bodies and lives for the blessing of the true miracle of Christmas.  That’s the real bonus of the holiday season.

We’ve made it past Thanksgiving and Black Friday.  We are safely on the median.  Where will you go from here?

Favorite Thanksgiving Moment

After a week full of Thanksgiving festivities, I am feeling quite bloated with great memories and good times.  Nuked leftovers cannot compare.  However, there is one moment that stands out as my all-time favorite.

I could tell you it was…

* Holding hands with my man while strolling through Rockefeller Center

* Playing games with the entire family clan

* The first snowflakes of the season dancing on our windshield

* Everyone gathering around to watch Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving

* Our trek to NYC and walking for hours upon hours despite foot surgery just 7 weeks ago

* Lots of laughs, smiles and hugs

* Enjoying my favorite pizza in the entire world – Lombardi’s!

* Going to church together

* Taking the traditional after-dinner walk with my kiddos and nephew

* Black Friday shopping with my sister-in-law who is one of my closest friends

* Cold turkey sandwich using only bread, turkey, mayo and pepper – don’t mess with a classic!

* Watching the kids ice skate

* Tucking in sleepy kids after a good day of playing

* Endless jokes!

* Going to a matinee with the whole crew – on a work/school day!

*  Traveling with my family of 5 plus the dog and a hedgehog.  Just being in the same place at the same time even if it’s stuck in a van from sun up to sundown.

* Watching how excited our dog gets to see that famous red chicken outline or those golden arches while traveling on the highway.  She gets grilled nuggets or a hamburger patty and loves to help with the drive-up window ordering.

* Saying grace before the Thanksgiving feast with everyone holding hands

* Admiring beautiful blue rocks the kids found in a nearby creek

* Having friends come over for Thanksgiving dessert to catch up

* Showing some family folks Pinterest for the first time!

* Long talks with everyone

* Football

* Macy’s Parade

* Not setting an alarm clock for an entire week

As much as all of these (and more) meant to me, there is one moment that will stay with me forever.  It was Thanksgiving morning and I had slept in a bit.  Sounds around the house told me I was one of the last to wake up.  I hustled through a shower and all that jazz – feeling like I needed to join everyone.  After all, the parade had already begun!

I knew my brother-in-law was preparing the turkey, bed-headed kids were sprawled on the floor playing games and adults were bustling about getting everything ready for a great day.

Feeling hurried to join in and help, I abruptly stopped.  One important step in my morning routine had been overlooked.  I had not said Good Morning to God.  Every morning I pray to God and tell Him I love Him.

I had packed my devotion, but honestly, with a house full of people and a calendar of fun to be had, it is difficult to squirrel away and have quiet time.  Nonetheless, I stopped and prayed and put on the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-19).

The clock was ticking, and because I overslept I felt like I needed to get moving.  But, I wanted to spend time with my Abba Father who gave me every reason to be thankful on Thanksgiving.  Torn between God, family and what I felt was my contribution to help out around the house, I literally stood frozen in the middle of the bedroom and didn’t know which way to turn.

In a quick moment, I turned, left the room and headed for the stairs.

As I walked toward the stairs, I felt a strong pull on my heart.  It was odd.  I took more steps toward the stairs, but with every one, I felt like I was pushing into a force that was stronger than me.  A hesitancy.  Lagging.  Drawing.  I couldn’t figure it out.  I was torn between being a wife, mother, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, aunt…and child of the King.  I thought perhaps it was the guilt I felt for not spending longer with my God who deserves more.

Just as I stepped onto the top step, the morning sun brightly shining into my eyes, God spoke ever-so clearly.

He said, I love you, too.

My breath caught as I gripped the handrail.  In four words, He changed me.  In four words, He told me He understood.

Yes, God always deserves our best, our most.  We often fail to give that to Him.  I am guilty of putting others before Him, people-pleaser that I am.  Ug.  I get caught up in projects and deadlines and busyness.  Double ug.  But, this morning, it was my heart – not my head that was torn.

I wasn’t avoiding Him, hiding from Him, angry at Him or anything else that would keep me from staying with Him longer.  I just didn’t know how to be all to all and caved in thinking pleasing people was momentarily more pressing.

You know what God did?  He cut me some slack.  Gave me grace.  Met me where I was. He simply loved me.

An action we could apply to all of our relationships.

He read my mind and heard my heart.  He, God of the universe, time and space, turned His face toward me and spoke to me.  That was the draw.  His presence was almost tangible. That is what I sensed.  It was as though He stood on the step in front of me, gently placed His hand on my anxious heart, and made me stop to hear Him.  All that was missing was eye contact, and that I felt through the blazing sun shooting through the window.

It was a miraculous moment.  A private moment between the Almighty God and me. I was undeserving.  Lavished on.  Humbled.  Loved.

I love you, too played over and over in my heart for the rest of the day.  He knew I felt straddled between two worlds and instead of judging me – He joined me on the journey.

I will never forget the magnetism that drew me to Him on that stair.  The electricity of His presence.  How incredibly and deeply loved I felt.

This was my favorite moment of the whole week – and it will be one I carry with me for the rest of my life.

Does arguing with your spouse count as going to church?

Our family attends church every week unless we are out of town or ill.  This is not to achieve some perfect attendance award, but if a solid commitment to go is not regularly upheld, it is way to easy to find excuses not to go.

Excuses not to go?  But, we love our church!  We absolutely love going to church.  It’s a warm, loving, Bible-teaching church filled with many of our favorite people in the entire world.  So what’s the problem?

The problem is this annoying thing called sinful nature.  Speaking for myself, after living this many years on earth, I have realized that it only takes me missing two consecutive Sundays before the temptation begins to creep in to use that allocated time for myself.

When we take the day off of work, or forego a class in college, it opens up free time that wasn’t there before.  Do you get as excited as I do about how to spend it?  Work, play, sleep – I can fill bonus hours in countless ways.  When going to church feels optional, I begin to think about all of the other things I could be doing.

That’s the enemy’s whispers because of two reasons: One, he knows the Bible instructs us to go, and it does because of the second reason…there is blessing in going.  We worship, learn, fellowship, and are inspired and encouraged by others as well as have opportunities to serve fellow believers to list a few.

Hebrews 10:25, Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

So, our family attends church every week without question.  However, recently, the train in our family derailed.  Actually, it derailed Saturday night.  That was the first problem.  My husband and I have been married for 22 years.  We’ve seen each other at our worst and at our best.  We’ve been through tragedy, victory, and just about everything in between.  But, this Saturday night, we sinned.

We let the sun go down on our anger.

Every marriage has hot spots.  If not, I’d love to meet the couple that never, ever has any problems whatsoever.  When two sinful people take an oath to live the rest of their lives together, differences are sure to appear.  It’s just going to happen.

We had an issue that is an actual problem.  None of this leaving the toilet seat up or down or where to squeeze the toothpaste tube stuff.  That’s newlywed growing pains.  This had to do with different parenting styles in a certain area.  The details aren’t important here, but with a valid issue as real as this one, that Saturday night we went to bed unwilling to budge in our positions.

In the wee hours of the night, when my head finally hit the pillow, I thought about church which was only a sunrise away.  Ug.  Realizing it wasn’t going to happen because of Bruce’s and my standoff, I turned off my preset alarm and fell asleep.

The next morning, I woke up with a heaviness in my heart.  Going to bed angry with each other was our first mistake.  We know better, so how is it we can justify and rationalize sin?  I knew a couple once who went to bed in a heated argument so much so, one of them left the bedroom and slept somewhere else in the house.  Overnight, the wife had a massive heart attack in her sleep and died.  The husband is left living the rest of his life knowing a fight was his last interaction with her.  A heavy weight to bear indeed.

Scripture is clear – In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent… – Psalm 4:4

‘In your anger do not sin’ Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. – Ephesians 4:26-27

We did.

We should have gotten out of bed and dealt with it, but let’s face it – too much stubbornness and pride was at stake.

The next morning, while the kids slept in, Bruce and I had to figure out where we were going from here.  In the early years of our marriage, there were times we went to church blazing mad at each other.  We didn’t speak to each other the whole time, but were nice and sweet as honey to everyone else.  Hypocrisy.

How dare I hug a neck or share a laugh with a friend or casual acquaintance while I shoot laser eyes at the man who voluntarily entered a covenant with me to spend the rest of his life with me – and me with him.

But, sometimes problems just can’t be solved by the time the music starts.  Like problems that pop up on the way to church, for example.  What do we do then?  We have different roles of service we are committed to serve.  Things are expected of us.  Do we let everyone down?

Wow.  Writing this lets me see how much going to church can become more about people and less about God.  While we are tangled up in our drama, it’s like God is standing there saying, Helloooo!  What about Me? I thought you were coming to meet with Me?

Church is God’s house of prayer (Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13).  So what does God say about conflict and attendance?  Jesus spoke directly to it in Matthew 5:23 –

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar.  First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come offer your gift.


But, He’s right.  Believe me, I’ve tried to skirt around this.  I’ve gone to church before knowing this Scripture, so I thought that if I just didn’t worship while the music played I could still reap all of the other benefits of church and serve my duties.


Everything we do is an act of worship.

Romans 12: 1-2, Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. 

But, Bruce and I not going to church meant our kids would have to miss, too.


There is a cost to sin.  Our first sin was going to bed angry and not resolving it.  The cost?  All of us miss church.

So we did.

They slept, blissfully unaware of Bruce and I working through this sticky issue we had between us.  For two hours, we talked, debated, talked…round and round we went.

We eventually resolved our conflict.  New strides were made in this area more than in many attempts in the past.  It was great!  Progress! Apologies were offered.  Tempers cooled down.  And everything culminated in praying together and starting the day over – ironically just as the last hour of church ended.

I remember thinking to myself, It’s strange, but I feel like I’ve been to church today.  We missed the music, the teaching, our friends and our service, but God was able to finally break through our stubborn hearts and help us resolve a long-standing issue.  We grew as people and as a couple.  We grew in our faith.  Hey, aren’t those things some of what church is about?

We’ll stream the sermon we missed online, but I’ll tell you that I feel like I got a great one at home.  We felt God’s hand of discipline in that our kids missed church as a result of our sin of going to bed with unresolved anger.  Children learn future habits from their parents.  Do I want my children’s marriages to be ones laced with fake smiles hiding hard hearts on Sunday morning, or be willing to miss a rare Sunday to resolve conflict and return to church with genuine love and living in peace and harmony with their spouse?  I would beg them to forfeit the proverbial perfect attendance gold star in lieu of being righteous in God’s eyes and in the eyes of their spouse.

Here’s the two ways the rest afternoon could have gone: We could have gone to church spitting mad and held it in for a few hours.  However, the minute we got home that can of worms would pop open and everything would start up all over again – probably for the rest of the day.

Or, as it happened, after praying with each other, we prayed with the kids for God to be with us in our day.  This resulted in a picnic!  We went to a favorite little shopping place that has green space and each of us got lunch from where we wanted – all within walking distance from each other.  We had a family picnic – even brought the dog and our newest pet, a hedgehog.  Bruce, leaning on crutches and me with my surgical shoe firmly planted in the ground, threw the football with our kids.  We played frisbee and took silly pictures of our pets.  We thoroughly enjoyed the gorgeous fall air and warm sunshine.  We stayed for hours.  It was some of the most enjoyable family time we’ve had in a while (thanks to the medical issues we’ve battled lately).

One very surprising thing happened that afternoon I must share because it wasn’t a coincidence.  Like I mentioned, we each got a to-go box from the different restaurants we wanted.  Donning my casual athletic shorts, a t-shirt and one running shoe :)I walked into the place where my food was waiting.

Stepping up to the counter, I waited while two guys looked pretty busy filling orders.  One of them looked up at me and said, completely out of the blue, You look like you’re expecting to have a great day today!

Not convinced I heard him correctly, I kindly asked him to repeat.  He said the same thing.

I almost went the self-deprecating route, telling him how much a shower helps, but I decided not to.  Instead, I smiled and muttered a quizzical Thank you.

He paused from his duties, looked at me, and said, It’s like you are shining.  You have this glow about you.

I must say I’m not sure I’ve ever heard that before.  A little embarrassed, I wasn’t sure how to respond.  I think I let out a nervous giggle (I do that sometimes).  I paid for my food and joined my crew at the picnic.

While eating, I told my family what happened.  Bruce said, He saw Jesus in you. (Matthew 5:16)

Hmm.  That guy’s remarks was such an odd moment to experience.  But, I believe God allowed it for a reason.  It proved to me, in a most unique way, that God’s ways really do work.  They really are best.

I know my marriage and I know me.  I can be stubborn!  If we had gone to church under false pretenses, the afternoon would have been miserable. A dark cloud would have hung over our house and who knows how long we would have drug out our argument.

Instead, we dealt with the matter at hand, however inconvenient to our family’s schedule, and enjoyed a blissful afternoon of rest and relaxation, laughing and sharing life together.  The light of Christ shone through our humanness because God knows what He’s doing.  A light so bright that evidentially it can radiate to the naked eye.  Humbling!

He’s given us instructions for living because they glorify Him and are in our best interest.

More than that nice guy in the restaurant, I want Christ’s light in me to shine on my family – my husband and children.  I want to be the same person in the privacy of our home that I am in public view at church.  Their opinion of me matters most.  But, more than what they think, I want the God I serve to be pleased with me.  Even above my husband, God is the One I must ultimately answer to.

My family ended the awesome day yesterday watching the 1966 classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (an annual tradition for us).  Linus thinks he’s found the most sincere pumpkin patch for the imaginary Great Pumpkin to visit.  He tells Lucy, Look around, not a sign of hypocrisy in sight.  May we be found the same.

I realize some problems are bigger than a weekend.  I get that.  But, what God is getting at is that what is in our control, what is our responsibility, we should own.  We have the freedom to be angry, but are instructed not to sin in our anger.  As a friend and I were just saying earlier this week, we reach our victories quickest when we don’t stumble along the path.  Had Bruce and I dealt with the conflict head-on, tired and all, instead of going to bed, we would have reached resolution hours earlier, gotten a better night’s sleep, and had been able to go to church with clear consciences and whole hearts.

Below are some go-to Scriptures I frequently reference and hope they are a blessing to you as well…

Hebrews 4:14-16, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Jeremiah 6:16, This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls…”

Romans 12:9 – 10, Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.  Honor one another above yourselves.

Romans 12:18, If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Hebrews 12:1-3, Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross,scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

1 Corinthians 9:24, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?  Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Seasons of Change

“…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” ~ Philippians 4:11-13

After holding a few lemonade stands in an effort to raise enough money to buy a pet, my daughter handed my husband a plastic bag heavy with coins and a few dollar bills in return for payment for her beloved creature.  He, in turn, bestowed upon me the honor of using said currency to buy our groceries since he would, reasonably, use bills to pay for the pet.  I was, in fact, left holding the bag.

This afternoon, my daughter and I went to the grocery store to pick up a few necessities.  At checkout, I pulled the plastic baggie from my purse, and she and I began to count out the coins.  The person behind me peered over the cash register, saw what I was doing, and abruptly changed lanes.  Who could blame her?  The next gentleman in line did the same thing.  Oh well.  I had coins to count.

The third person stayed in position, but stared at me – which by the way, makes me nervous…counting with someone looking over my shoulder.

My daughter and I worked quickly, and I remarked under my breath with a chuckle, I’m the person no one wants to be behind – trying to confront the elephant in the room.

The teenage cashier replied, Oh it’s okay.  You do what you have to do.  There’s been plenty of times my mama and I had to hunt the house looking for change to buy what we needed.  You take all the time you need.  I’m here until 10 o’clock. 


She was very kind, but she misread the situation.  However, I now felt compassion towards her because she had been in more than one circumstance when change is all her family had to get by.

As I handed her $26 dollars and 25 cents in jingling change, I pondered her perspective.  There has been a lot of change over the years – for better and worse.  There was a time when, in the very same grocery store, I had to buy my family’s groceries with food stamps.  They aren’t the small green stamps my mom used, rather an electronic debit card of sorts.  Still, one selects the EBT button on the payment machine just the same.

Our children were 5, 3 and 1 years old.  The company my husband worked for dissolved a week before September, 11, 2001 with no last paycheck, no severance, no insurance.  We were in a really bad way financially and occupationally.

Think back farther.  We live where we do because a company my husband worked for in another state merged with another company – leaving us very few options.

Think back farther.  We worked our way through college together.  We carefully considered every single penny.  Dinner was often nachos (tortilla chips, jarred salsa and cheddar cheese).  Our dates were always at lunch when restaurant meals are less expensive and we enjoyed blockbusters at matinee prices.  We were completely content.

Think back farther.  My husband asked me to marry him on my 18th birthday.  He previously asked my grandfather for my hand, and my grandparents joyfully agreed.  However, when I told them the big news the next morning, they were speechless.  They thought he meant after college.  Here he was, 22 and exiting the military service.  He had no job, no permanent address, no money.  They gave us their blessing nonetheless, but no financial help.  They loved us that much, as did his parents, and I thank them for it.

Over the years, we’ve weathered job loss, company mergers, relocation, temporary jobs, full-time work and freelance jobs.  We aren’t afraid to work hard, and we trust the Lord to take care of us.

I’ll admit that knowing what the cashier was thinking made me a little embarrassed.  It’s a shot to one’s dignity.  But, as fast as that feeling came, a smile grew across my face knowing that God has indeed been faithful no matter what our checking account balance has been.  I also smiled at life, thinking back on seasons of our marriage and affirming that hard times grow us closer together.

Tonight, as we gratefully ate the food those handfuls of coins bought us, I thought about our 22 years together and the change that has accompanied it –  both literally and proverbially.

My husband and I have the Lord, each other and our kids.  We have extended family who are priceless to us and friends who love us deeper than family.  We are blessed with good health.  Most of all, we have Christ as the center of our lives.  Everything in our entire lives revolves around Him – not the other way around.

We will go to sleep knowing we are loved by God and by each other, and because of that I feel like the richest girl in the world.

Favorite Fifteen! 15 things I love about being a wife

I had so much fun last week writing about the simple pleasures and pure joy of being a mom. Today, I want to give a shout out for some of the reasons I love being a wife.

15 things I love about being a wife

*  After 22 years of marriage, I am still learning new things about my husband and myself.  Life is never boring!

*  I can say anything to him, but because I love and respect him, I watch what I say and how I say it.

*  Wading through the sea of parenting together.  We pool our strengths and weaknesses together and, hopefully, create a pretty cool family experience.

(Our family)

*  I love going to the movies with my man.  He’s the best movie partner!  He willingly abides by my absurdly anal and strict movie standards – no talking, no cell phones, no texting, no crunching, no slurping, no snoring, no rustling of plastic candy bags during the show – oh, and have a great time! 😉 (Who else would tolerate this??)

*  Serving with him on mission.

*  Keeping the house quiet on Saturday mornings so he can sleep in after a long workweek.

*  We can agree to disagree on the small stuff and that’s okay.

*  I have freedom to be myself with him with no walls built around me.  He has seen me at my very best and very worst and still loves me. I can let my guard down and be who I am without the fear of being rejected.  He gets my weird sense of humor, respects my boundaries, understands my weaknesses…yet still accepts me.

*  Dreaming together.

* He brings me flowers just because, on special occasions, and in remembrance of my mom’s birthday – though he never had the opportunity to meet her.  We met exactly one month after she died.

( Happy Anniversary)

*  Sharing the journey of life with my man who has promised to walk every step of the way with me till death do us part.

*  He can convince me to try new things: Thai food (yum!); snow skiing (his passion, not mine); computers (yep, years ago, he’s the one who showed me how to befriend these little monsters); driving go karts so crazy they almost kick you off the track (Ha!); a wicked-scary, fast air boat ride to see alligators up close and perhaps a little too personal (so fun!) – the list goes on.

*  We laugh with, and at, each other.  Most times we know when to do which. Ha!

*  He tells me I am beautiful – even if I have a hard time believing it.

(From the Empire State Building)

*  As a little girl, my two biggest dreams were to be married and have children.  I had other dreams – some I’ve accomplished, like graduating from college, being a published writer and traveling to Africa; and some I haven’t, like working as a photographer for National Geographic. But, my heart has always been passionate for being a wife and mother. I am reminded every day that God heard my prayer and answered it in an incredible way.

Marriage is hard. It takes work. It requires dying to one’s self, seeking the spouse’s best interest and considering the other person’s needs before my own. Many people won’t give up the control, their wants or their ambitions. I used to be that person. But, the beauty of marriage is discovered when both people put each other first. Oftentimes, this means someone has to go first. It creates a peaceful, loving atmosphere rather than dog-eat-dog. Trust and vulnerability are not easily attained in our wary world, but when God has put a man and woman together, and each of them have resolved to live by His standard, it works. Needs and wants of both people are met. Fun and intimacy are a part of regular life. We can work with each other and not against each other.  After all, in a marriage, both people are on the same team.