Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stories In Common

I like to people watch. If I had all the free time in the world, I'd probably go to a public spot, sit on a bench, and just watch people. People are fascinating. When I run, I think about the people who live in the homes I pass. I wonder what goes on inside. On the rare occasions when I have the chance to sit and watch others, I wonder what their lives are like, what they've experienced in their lifetimes. I like knowing what's happened in people's lives to make them who they are.

Unfortunately, most people keep their life stories to themselves. Fear of judgment renders them incapable of opening their books and turning the pages. They live in hidden depression, secrets forced to the deep, dark recesses of their minds.

No freedom.

No joy.

They're going through the motions, imitating life.

I have the pleasure of watching the stories of some friends unfold, up-close and personal. My heart breaks with some of them. Their stories, incomplete, seem to be hurling toward disaster with little hope of a different ending. My heart rejoices with others. Their stories, much like mine, have a heart-breaking chapter. But a few chapters later, their stories are flourishing with life, the Gospel alive in them. Every time I have the chance to visit with them, I'm amazed at how God has taken their lives from the brink of disaster and set them on mountains of beauty.

These friends know my story. We share common bonds. I've cried with some of them; I've shared meals and conversations with most of them. I've prayed for them (and continue to do so)...not pious prayers, but prayers from the heart because I've been where they are or were. I've loved them right where they are...because that's how Jesus loves me.

I wonder how many of us have a story to share...experiences in our lives that would help someone else make a different decision, giving their stories a different ending. I wonder if that little girl needs to hear how she can find freedom in Jesus from her home life. I wonder if that couple needs to know that I won't judge them, and that God will offer them grace. I wonder who you know that needs to hear your story, that needs to know you have something in common with them.

Contest Winner

And the prize goes to....

Peggy Arteberry!!!

Peggy, please go to my contact information, and email me your address. I'll get your prize in the mail asap!

Thank you to all who entered the contest!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Mouth Full of Metal and God's Plans

I had to take Emma, my child with the mouth full of metal, to the orthodontist today for an unexpected visit. She had a blister in the roof of her mouth where her butterfly touched.

When I called the office and made an appointment, she immediately started crying a river full of tears. She begged not to go. She was even angry that I'd called in the first place. She was so afraid of what the doctor might do, of what might cause her some pain.

I told her we were going to see the doctor for her best interest, that I didn't want the blister to get infected and cause more pain in her mouth.  I told her to quit worrying about what might happen because the doctor might not do anything at all, then she would've cried and worried for no reason.

I'm guilty of the same thing. I don't know the plans God has for me; so sometimes I worry, I cry, I get angry when I can't see my way through pain. All I know is that I don't like pain, so I often don't want to face it. God knows that. He encourages me to trust Him. He knows the plans He has for me...He sees the ending. He causes all things to happen for my good and His glory.

When we arrived at the doctor's office, Emma reluctantly sat in the chair and opened her mouth. He looked at the blister, examined her mouth for a minute, then asked her a question. He asked her if she'd like to have the butterfly appliance removed. You should've seen the expression on my child's face! She was so excited. She was more than eager to have that piece of bothersome metal removed. She was all smiles when we left his office.

Sometimes we fear the unknown, but we end up realizing how foolish we were not to trust God. He knew all along that He would remove the pain, that He had good things in store for us. While we don't always see the pain removed in this life, for those of us who trust Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can look to the day that there will be no more pain or sorrow or crying in heaven. His plans are better than we can imagine. Our worries are in vain.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Distorted Views

A while back, I bought a full-length mirror to hang on the back of my bathroom door. Instead of hanging it right away, it's still propped up against the wall. I'm not sure why, maybe it's the position in which it's leaning, but it distorts my reflection. I'm certainly not complaining. The distorted view is one I'm quite comfortable with: it makes me look taller and slimmer! I like it! Of course, when I step over to my dresser mirror, I see my real reflection. It's not quite as pretty. I don't like it as I just step back to the leaning mirror to make myself feel good for a minute!

There are many who would offer us a distorted view of God. Many of them make us feel good about ourselves: our sin doesn't look so bad when we compare it to that of others. Some present God as a genie-in-the-bottle: if we just believe enough, God will prosper us and give us our best lives now. Some present God as one who sits on the edge of his seat, waiting for us to break the rules so he can zap us. Others present God as one who doesn't really care about sin or obedience: he just expects us to correct social injustices. The list could go on and on and on...

Sometimes I stumble onto one of these views. Depending on which one I've stumbled on, for a time, I might feel better about myself; or I might feel like the biggest failure in the world. It's easy to hang onto things that make you feel good; and it's easy to allow yourself to live in condemnation. But neither are from God.

When we read the Bible, in context, in view of the whole, we know Truth. God is Truth. And when we know Truth, we can discern distorted views. And although they may hold our gaze for a few moments, we should know to step away from the views that would harm us. And the truth is that sometimes God must confront us with the truth about ourselves and about Himself. And it's not always a view we want to experience. It's easy then to step away from the truth, back into a distorted view, because distorted views are sometimes easier to handle. But we must hold fast to the Truth, to the character of God, presented as a whole in His Word.

Where are your eyes directed...on a distorted view, or on the Truth?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I've Reached 50 Followers

You know what that means: Contest time!!!

The prize:
Grace Is For Sinners by Serena Woods
One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
$15 gift card to Starbucks

The contest:
In the comments section of this post, please list the following:
  • your first name
  • the state/country in which you live
  • how you found my blog
  • the address (url) of a blog you like to read
  • something good from this week

The contest begins now and will end Saturday, February 26th, at 6 pm (CST). You must be a follower to win! A random drawing from all entries will be held Saturday evening.

The winner will be posted Sunday morning!


Seven years old was much too young to start keeping such heavy secrets. But I was scared. And I remember being told that bad things would happen if I said anything to anyone. But I did anyway. I told a friend at school. And I was immediately fearful; so I told her that it wasn't had only been a dream.

The next big secret came when I was ten years old. No one could know. In fact, stories...lies...were formed to conceal the secret. I think I told anyway...I can't remember for sure. While some memories about that time are vivid, others are blurry. It was a life-changing secret.

From there, the secrets piled on. By my teenage years, I was keeping my own secrets....of things I did, thoughts I had, questions that plagued me.

By the time I became an adult, secrecy was a way of life. I had learned to keep things to myself, and wear a smile. I buried emotions. As long as no one knew the real me, life could carry on. I was convinced that if secrets were exposed, life would shatter before my eyes.

Little did I know that telling my secrets...the a safe setting would set me free to finally live. It was finally okay to put a voice to my life.

Justin and Trisha Davis of shared their hearts on this topic last weekend. I watched the video yesterday, and highly recommend you do too. To watch, click here.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Needs vs. Wants: Balance or Go Overboard?

I'm in a war with myself: needs versus wants. For months, I've been struggling with this. For example, I loathe our living room furniture. I know exactly what kind of furniture I want for that room. I've been to the furniture store, looked at the options, sat on the couches, and...coveted. I want new furniture. But, I don't need it. While our couch is not particularly comfortable, and it's certainly dirty from eleven years of children, it's not broken. It's not like my family is having to sit on the floor (and if they were, would that really be so bad?).

I become more and more frustrated with myself and my children when we whine about not getting something we want. I realize that I'm the one who's spoiled my children (and myself) to this point, and it's difficult to reverse that mindset. Recently, I find myself often saying, There are people in this world who don't even have food to eat. Don't complain. We have more than we need.

In his book, Radical, David Platt says:

...the war against materialism in our hearts is exactly that: a war. It is a constant battle to resist the temptation to have more luxuries, to acquire more stuff, and to live more comfortably. It requires strong and steady resolve to live out the gospel in the middle of an American dream that identifies success as moving up the ladder, getting the bigger house, purchasing the nicer car, buying the better clothes, eating the finer food, and acquiring more things.

Convicting to the core, isn't it? Only, for me, this is just one of many passages God has led me to over the last few months. He has practically placed books, passages, blogs, and more on this topic right in front of me.

My family has started taking small steps towards giving our time and resources to those in need. Yet it's not enough. Since I've begun to open my eyes to the needy and hurting, locally and world-wide, I find myself more and more disgusted with the way my family has lived.

Just last night, Mark and I sat down for an hour to watch one of our favorite t.v. shows. Ten minutes in, I was fidgety and couldn't concentrate. I was frustrated with the time we were wasting and the t.v. we were staring at. I sat there and looked around the room at all the stuff that just sits atop tables and hangs on the walls, collecting dust. Stuff. And there are people who don't even have homes.

I know what you're thinking: she's gone off the deep end. No, I haven't...not yet. But maybe I should. Right now I'm searching for balance in this area. But I'm beginning to wonder if maybe there's no balance to be found. Maybe I am to go overboard...

Monday, February 21, 2011


Lately I'm thinking a lot about humility. I can be slap-dab in the middle of doing something, and I'll find myself wondering if I'm doing it with an attitude of humility or pride. I've always struggled with pride, but didn't realize it until four years ago.

My pride was centered around church, more specifically, making sure I looked as good as all the other people in church. I was there every time the doors were open, I volunteered, I pointed out other people's sins. It makes my stomach churn right now just thinking about it.

What I wasn't doing was making sure my attitude was one of humility.

Being a Christian has come to mean something totally different to me over the past four years. It no longer means putting on a good show and smile at church. It no longer means I have to be everybody else's judge and jury. It no longer means that I have to beat a dead horse in a debate so that someone else will see that I'm right.

Being a Christian means I am more concerned with my heart attitude...what's on the inside...than I am with appearance. And my heart attitude needs to be one of humility. I want more than anything to share the love and freedom found in God's grace; but sometimes the me-me-me, I-I-I emerges out of me, and an opportunity is lost before I even realize it.

So I find that I must humble myself. The definitions of humble, used as a verb, are these:
1. to lower in condition, importance, or dignity; abase
2. to destroy the independence, power, or will of
3. to make meek

I pray that I am actively humbling myself to the will of God. I don't want to walk independently of Him. I want Love and Grace, God Himself, to be the definition of my existence.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday's (Unmerited) Favor: Blaming Yourself

You've got no one but yourself to blame. You're responsible for the mess you're in. You might make excuses, and you probably have reasons, but deep down, you know it's all your fault. Maybe you

are an addict

are an alcoholic

are having an affair

are quick to lose your temper

are a thief

Whatever it is, you've made one destructive decision that's led to another, and now you find yourself wondering how you ever got there. You know all the blame is your own.

Some say you deserve the mess you're's your punishment. They might say you deserve to live in guilt, to always feel the shame of what you've done. I've even heard this phrase before: eternal consequences.

Friend, no matter what you've done, or are doing, there is freedom. There's freedom from your sin, from guilt, from shame, and yes, even from eternal consequences. Jesus has made a way.

When the Pharisees cast the woman caught in adultery before Jesus, He acknowledged her sin. While He didn't ignore her sin, what He didn't tell her was that she deserved to live in guilt, that she should constantly feel shame, that she should wallow in the blame for the rest of her life. He set her free. He spoke the most gracious words anyone could ever speak to sinners who blame themselves: Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more. (John 8: 3-11)

Humbly enter into His presence, and allow Him to speak those words to your heart, to set you free from the bondage of sin and self-blame. Then go, and tell others of the freedom you've experienced.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

For the Hurting

I've always got an ear listening and an eye watching for things that lead on a journey of healing...songs, books, blogs, movies. Over the last few years, I've come across so many things that immediately touch a tender spot in my heart, causing my eyes to brim with tears. Anything referring to God's grace touches that spot. Knowing there are so many people who privately hurt, I usually want to publicize what I've thought is that if it helps me, it will probably help someone else.

A few days ago, I came across a song by Kathryn Scott. The words immediately touched the tenderness of my heart. I can't get enough of this song. If you're sorting through private pain, shame you brought on yourself...grab some kleenex...this song is for you.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Yesterday I wrote about girlfriends, and my experience in losing them. Today, I write about my best friend:

We now joke that she stalked me into being her friend. She's the persistent, talk-your-ears-off kind. But early on, when we'd just met, we shared a conversation that would set the tone for our friendship.

I dropped the kids off at school that day, called to tell (not ask) her that I was headed to her house, and asked her what drink I could get her from Starbucks. I showed up at her house ten minutes later still in my pajamas, Starbucks drinks in hand, ready for coffee talk (all totally out of character for me at the time). She didn't disappoint. I sat at her kitchen counter while she hovered over dirty dishes, and we talked...about everything. I found her to be surprisingly and refreshingly transparent and honest. Our conversation was comfortable, the kind that flows from life-long freinds. Within minutes, I found myself unloading my past, which I was still sorting through.

She didn't judge. She didn't offer promises of pious prayers, or quote Scripture to me. She just listened. She let me tell my story. And occasionally she asked questions, not so much out of curiosity, but more from wanting to understand. When the conversation became heavy and intense, she offered witty one liners to lighten the mood. But she also offered wise insight to my insecure and hurting heart...she's familiar with the messiness of life.

We've had countless similar deep conversations since that day several years ago. She consistently offers me the type of friendship we began back then. She lets me ramble, chatter, vent, question, doubt, and sometimes, just sit silently. She helps me put circumstances and situations into perspective. Just last night, she sent me a private message that made my eyes mist over with thankfulness for her insight.

She's taught me how to be a friend...a real friend. She's inspired me to be a better friend, a better mother, a better wife, a better transparent Christian. I count myself blessed to have her in my life. What I lost a few years ago among several people, I gained (and more) in my very dearest friend.

Love you, Ash!


Today I'm guest posting over at A Deeper Story. I'm sharing about my experience with some girlfriends. Here's a peek:

Snacks and social time were over. There I sat on the floor, surrounded by my best girlfriends.

We knew one another’s daily routines. We chatted on the phone several times per week. They knew my family; I knew theirs. Our kids were best friends. We shared all the latest gossip.

And yet…

When it came down to the nitty-gritty, we didn’t really know one another. To read the rest, click here.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our Love Story

This Valentine's Day finds us telling our story...again. Ours is a story of young love, love lost, and love renewed. It's the kind of story:

for its beauty we can take no came from ashes and scars.

that scares people who can't identify.

that God uses to bring healing to people who can relate. 

we used to be afraid to tell. 

that only God can use to bring glory to Himself.

As we told our story again this past weekend, we shared the beauty of it. We found ourselves smiling and laughing while we told how God took our hurt and replaced it with hope. There was a time when we thought we might never know these days...days of grace and peace.

If we could rewrite the tragedy of our lives, I'm not sure we would. If we couldn't have known this beauty without the tragedy, then I'm not sure we would change anything. Redemption has changed us and our marriage; I can't imagine going back to the way things were before.

We've traded:

bitterness for peace

cutting words for gentle speech

limitations for unconditional love

lies for truth

selfishness for thoughtfulness

I won't pretend that every day is roses and chocolates. Some days are difficult just because life is hard. Many days we are not at our bests. And occasionally we momentarily take back the things we've traded, and the old us will emerge. But we've learned to recognize those days, those moments, and remember the valley we've travelled together...the valley out of which God has led us. And we are thankful...for one another, and for our love story.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Friday's (Unmerited) Favor: Grace Keeping My Foot

I watch my youngest daughter, Hannah, on the balance beam. Arms stretched out on each side, she walks toe-to-heel, ever so slowly. She wobbles slightly, stops, then restarts. Head down, she keeps her eyes focused on the beam below her. All the while, her coach walks beside her, hands inches from Hannah's waist, ready to catch her if her feet slip, if she starts to fall. She reminds Hannah to lift her head and look up.

The conversation was one that had been coming for a long time, years even. Too many issues swept under the rug. I was fearful. I'm familiar with the old me. I know how I used to handle these situations. Suddenly, forgiveness and grace were not even on my radar. The old me showed up with a vengeance. I was ready for attack. I waited. I didn't pray at first....I didn't want to. I knew He'd lead me to have the conversation, just not in the manner that the old me would have done it, the way the new me wanted to revert to.

The girls and I are learning Psalm 121.Verse 3 starts off by saying He will not let your foot slip. This particular part of this verse has intrigued me over the past two weeks. I'm amazed how God is our keeper, the one who steadies our feet. When we carefully walk with head-down, eyes cast on our feet treading the path before us, we're prone to wobble and stumble. He steadies us, lifts our heads, and reminds us to keep our eyes focused on Him.

The verse wouldn't go away. For two days, the words He will not let your foot slip ran through my mind. He wouldn't leave me alone. He reminded me that He's picked me up from the ground, restored me, and He won't let me return to the old ways. He won't let my foot slip.

God, help me was my simple prayer.

The conversation took place...not in the way it would have years ago. Quiet calm mixed with determined firmness. God helping me. Grace keeping my foot from slipping.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Marriage: Nothing Can Prepare Us!

Pre-marital counseling...check.

Reading a plethora of books about marriage...check.

Marriage mentor...check.

Just about any kind of pre-marital help and information we can fathom is no more than a click or phone call away. Yet, nothing (and I mean, NOTHING) can prepare us for marriage. We just have to experience it for ourselves.

Sometimes we leave momma's house to enter the marriage home. Sometimes we've lived alone, settled in our own routines, before we enter marriage. Either way, marriage is an entirely new world.

Even though we dated for five years, nothing could have prepared my husband for the fact that when we married, I couldn't cook. I literally almost set the kitchen on fire while boiling water. Nothing could have prepared me for the fact that my husband can't sit still. He likes to be busy...all the time. Those are things we had to learn about one another...quickly.

Nothing can fully prepare us to completely accept another person in all their fullness. And absolutely nothing can prepare us for what comes with most marriages: in-laws. And nothing can prepare us for the feelings we will feel about our spouse, our in-laws, the things we learn about one another during marriage.

Nothing can really prepare us for those first marriage holidays, when we're consumed with stress over which family we're going to visit at what time, making sure that neither family's feelings are hurt. Nothing can prepare us for the excitement we feel when our spouse brings home that very first surprise "just because." Nothing can prepare us for the disappointment we feel when that first argument occurs.

Marriage is a series of trials, errors and constant education. We learn things we never knew about ourselves, and we learn things about our spouse. And, just when we think we're through learning,

everything changes,

and there arise new marital situations and circumstances from which to learn.

Marriage is what we make of it. It's hard work. It's a learning process. We must choose to offer our spouse...


unconditional love



And nothing can prepare us for the beauty of marriage that happens when we choose these.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Letting Go

Over the years, God has led me to let go of many things in my life. It started when I was a child. We moved quite a bit as I was growing up, so I learned that if I held on too tightly to missing old friends, I wouldn't make new ones. I learned that God brings people into our lives for a season, and to appreciate them while I have them.

God has also led me to let go of my desires. When my oldest child was a baby, I worked full-time. I wanted so badly to be a stay-at-home mom, but it was financially impossible. I spent so many days crying, so many days angry at God for not changing my situation. I finally let go of my desire, and told God I was willing to do whatever He wanted, including working full-time. I was finally at peace with my circumstances. Two months later, He performed a miracle, and I've been a stay-at-home for the last ten years.

Eight years ago, before my youngest child was even born, He led me to let go of my children. He showed me that they are His anyway, and He can do with them as He chooses. Sometimes that still takes my breath away and makes my heart beat a little faster.

About three years ago, God led me to let go of old, haunting memories. The memories were those that kept me bound in gult and shame. When I laid them down at the foot of the cross, I stood up in freedom.

More recently, God has led me to let go of material possessions. (Tough one for me.) He's teaching me to be content with what I have. I'm learning that even if I lost all material possessions, I have everything I need in Him.

Finally, He's now leading me to let go of the plans, things I thought the future would hold. It's as if He's taken my tiny part of the world, flipped it upside down, and is asking me to let things go instead of desperately holding on to them. If the past is any indication of the future, I know that letting go will lead me to cling more tightly to Him.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Friday's (Unmerited) Favor: Grace...God In Me

Qualification: (noun) A quality, ability, or accomplishment that makes a person suitable for a particular position or task (American Heritage Dictionary)

In Priscilla Shirer's study on Jonah, Navigating a Life Interrupted, she says, "Forgiveness of past sin qualifies us for present service."

I'm reading in Exodus about Moses, the man whom God appointed to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt. Even with God's clear instruction, Moses questioned more than once his speaking skills. The Lord replied to Moses, Who has made man's mouth? Or who makes him dumb or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say. (Exodus 4: 11-12) Moses argued again, and God allowed Aaron, his brother to speak for him. But God's plans were not thwarted; He still used Moses to deliver the Israelites.

I've been forgiven much. I've experienced abundant grace. According to the above definition, I'm qualified to tell of God's forgiveness and grace. And He keeps placing people in my path who need to hear what I've experienced. Yet I keep asking Him,

Who am I?

I keep saying to Him,

I haven't been properly educated for this.

What if I mess up?

What if I tell them something that does more harm than good?

So He reminds me of the very words He spoke to Moses. He tells me that He'll teach me what to say. I just have to be faithful to be available for the "present service" for which He has qualified me. I admit...

I'm scared.

But more than that...


Grace to share as often as He requires. Grace to tell the ugliness of my story, leading up to forgiveness. Grace to be His hands and feet...and mouth.

Grace... God in me.

Life Marks

Once, packing up belongings of nine years of home. Removing frames and decor hanging on walls.

Walls that contained years of love, babies,

Bare walls. Marks of love lived in that home. Numerous holes revealed places where hearts had hung. Poorly covered-up permanent marker told the story of little girl creativity and curiosity. Small dents showed doors swung open in excitement.

Marks of life lived, of love shared.

35 years. Life lived. Love shared. Marks tell the story. Scars from ugly yesterdays. Beauty marks of grace received.

33 years. LIFE. LOVE. Marks tell more than a story: the Gospel. Scars, the result of my penalty. Scars, the beauty of grace.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Love Too Young

21...too young. But there I stood at the top of the large stairway, awaiting my entrance into the double doors. Hair curled perfectly, makeup carefully applied, elbow-length gloves disguising a french manicure and sweaty palms, a heavy bouquet weighting down my arms. Chosen songs echoed through the slightly cracked doors.

My wedding day, nearing fourteen years ago. The day went as perfectly as could be planned by such a young girl.

I stood there naieve {not to be confused with innocent}, awaiting my prince charming. Marriage was going to be all roses and chocolate.

I can't say for sure as I stood there minutes before I entered covenant, I knew love. Almost ten years of marriage passed before I knew to receive it, how to give it. It was no fault of my prince charming that I didn't know it before that point. He tried, repeatedly. It was my selfish heart, expecting fantasyland that kept me from knowing love.

The day came when love dropped tears of sadness and forgiveness on my head. It was that instant when my selfishness gave way to undeserved love...the love of my covenant partner who'd tried in vain for almost ten years to give it to me. Until that point, I hadn't accepted what he offered. And I certainly hadn't offered any in return.

Four years down the road from that day, love blooms. Sometimes love needs extra care. But, sometimes, love just is...and in those times, I am keenly aware of my prince charming's ability for unfailing love.