Thursday, December 15, 2016

Auto Immune

One of the ways the Lord shows His daily faithfulness in my life is to speak through present circumstances.

This past Saturday I was struggling to move. Literally.

Fourteen years ago, shortly after Caroline was born, I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

The onset of this disease was fast and harsh.

Severe pain.  All over.

I was bed-ridden within a week.

A specialist was quickly able to diagnose this disease that was attacking my body.

Rheumatoid arthritis falls into the category of an auto immune disease.

Here is the gist of what that means (in non-medical Andrea terms):  my body is attacking itself.

So my immune system, which is supposed to fight invading bacteria that would make me sick, instead attacks my healthy tissue and cells.

In short, I AM MY OWN ENEMY.

And I don't even mean to do it.

(It is really pretty crappy...but we all have stuff to deal with and manage)

Thankfully there are medicines available that can help ease the symptoms of this wicked disease.

All of these medicines work together to help me...but the best medicine to fight the damage of this disease is a medicine called Enbrel.

It is an injection.  Yes.  A blasted shot.

I.  Hate. Shots.

Thankfully my husband has become the master at administering them and I hardly even feel it (yay for that)!

The Enbrel goes into my body and suppresses my immune system so it cannot attack itself.

Are you beginning to see how God is using this in my life?

Let me give you some context in God's Word~

"I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful is concerned.  No matter which way I turn, I can't make myself do right.  I want to, but I can't.  When I want to do good, I don't.  And when I try not to do wrong, I do it anyway.  But if I am doing what I don't want to do, I am not really the one doing it; the sin within me is doing it.
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitable do what is wrong.  I love God's law with all my heart.  But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind." Romans 7:18-23 

Just as my own immune system declares war on itself, there is a spiritual war that wages in me constantly.

My flesh (this selfish, arrogant, vain, mean, vindictive, jealous, whiny, self-righteous, doubting, foolish, angry,fear-filled person) tries to daily declare war on the person I am in Jesus Christ.

I don't even mean to.

My old nature just does what old natures do.

So I am in desperate need of something that goes into my mind to fight this old nature.

God's Word acts as the medicine that keeps my old sin nature from flaring up.

The more I stay in His Word...the more my old nature has to retreat.

If you follow Christ Jesus and live in this fallen are just as auto immune as I am.

Without heavy and daily doses of the truth of the Word and prayer we are doomed to lose that internal war.

Thankfully the Lord has given us every tool to win.  Himself.  His precious Holy Spirit resides within us.  His Word changes the way we think and softens cold and critical hearts.

We DO NOT have to walk around defeated and allowing the old nature to win this internal war.

But many of us the great detriment of the reputation and grace of Jesus Christ.

Rise up Christians.  Fight through means of submission.  Recognize and confess the ugly stuff that lurks in your hearts and minds.  Allow grace and conviction to do its work.

If I refused to take the prescribed medicine for my rheumatoid arthritis and yet complained constantly of debilitating guess is that I would receive very little pity.  And zero relief.

Yet we do the same thing.

We cry out in our need for peace, comfort, joy, forgiveness, mercy, provision, power, strength, and love that we must have in order to function.

And the prescription for all of the above sits on some shelf or bedside table...barely used or believed.

In this season of Christmas I am humbled to no end that my Savior would wrap Himself in this flesh to save my stubborn and self-bent soul.

When you take some real inventory of the sin that longs to eat you alive....the gift of baby Jesus will humble you as well.

A perfect, spotless Son of God came for the chief purpose to save a sinful me.

Merry Christmas my auto immune friends!

"So now there is NO condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death.  
He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful.  God destroyed sin's control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins.  He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit."
Romans 8:1-4

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Scoffers and Skeptics

A couple of weeks ago during my morning devotion time with Jesus I read Paul's words to Timothy and found myself musing.

Paul was indeed a real person.

He is responsible for writing much of the New Testament.

His words speak of a man on a mission.  His passion is almost visible on the written page.

This man, once a violent persecutor of Christians, now leading the charge of grace.

In 1 Timothy 1:12 Paul writes, "How thankful I am to Christ Jesus our Lord for considering me trustworthy and appointing me to serve him, even though I used to scoff at the name of Christ.  I hunted down his people, harming them in every way I could.  But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief.  Oh, how kind and gracious the Lord was! He filled me completely with faith and the love of Christ Jesus."

One of my favorite character traits about our brother Paul is his shameless forthrightness.

He does not gloss over his past.
The grievous nature of what he used to be is not somehow painted in a prettier light.


Paul plops the truth out there.

He was awful.
He harmed Christians in every way he could.

With even more eagerness he credits the unmistakable change in his life.
He speaks of mercy as a man tasting it again and again as if for the first time.

As I read his words my focus landed on a few in particular.

Paul said, "I used to scoff at the name of Christ."

I wondered about the exact meaning of that word: scoff.

It means what you probably think it does.  Scoff means to mock, dismiss, ridicule, jeer at, belittle, or make light of something.

Paul was clear with us.

He mocked, ridiculed. jeered at, belittled, dismissed and made light of the name of Jesus Christ.

Can I be completely honest here?

Without ample amounts of the Holy Word of God going into my mind...
Without a constant flow of communication of prayer between Jesus and I....
Without His praise ever on my lips.....
Without a grace filled constitution fixed on faith rather than sight......
Without fresh conviction and repentance....

I WILL and DO SCOFF at the name of Jesus.

My natural tendency is doubt.

You may have noticed that my title to this post also includes skeptics.

A skeptic is a person inclined to doubt the truth.

Yep.  That would be me.

I wonder about the Church.
I wonder about my brothers and sisters out there that faithfully attend church week after week.
I wonder about the ones that don't even bother to come anymore.
I wonder about the ones fighting the good fight of faith.
I wonder about the ones with little fight left.

How many believers of Jesus Christ sit under the weight of silent scoffing and skepticism??

When grace is stale to us~ faith no longer appeals.

When faith no longer appeals to us~ we begin to work to be loved.

And here the cycle of defeat begins.

In the midst of Paul's hideous persecution of believers Jesus loved him with unfathomable love.

In the midst of my scoffing and skepticism I am loved completely.

How quickly we forget that our God is so drawn to weakness.
He waits, ready and willing, to be called upon so that strength and grace can be dispensed.

The scoffing and skeptic nature can only been overcome by the most unnatural of trades.

I hold out my hands in surrender.

I bring him a heart bent on scoffing and skepticism.

He does not retract.  He does not recoil.  He does not refuse.

To my heart riddled with doubt and cynicism, bent on prideful arrogance and a longing to go my own way.......there is an infusion of fresh grace.

And like a soothing salve that binds and heals wounds, my heart receives fully a gift it was always meant to have.

At 9 years old I was saved by grace.

Today at 39 years old...grace still saves the day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Not Knowing

A dear friend and I have laughed recently at how God has managed to get us ok with confessing, "I don't know."

Truthfully we were laughing to keep from crying.
Ever been there?

Questions plague us about the why's of God~ His timing, His methods, His paths AND for the life of us....we have no answer.

It honestly makes me mad.  But less mad than it used to. 

So there is some progress there....

How does God do this?

How does He take people that desperately need to know an outcome ahead of time or how long something is going to last or maybe why we have been chosen for a specific difficulty and make those people shake their heads in surrender and say, "I don't know how, why or when but I know You are faithful God and I trust You."

I have no idea.

I will use myself for an example.

The Holy Spirit has encouraged my husband and I to believe Him to heal our daughter for 14 years.

Yep.  Fourteen years.

I thought by now she would be running, talking, sitting, standing, and eating on her own.  I thought she would be doing the normal 14 year old girl things....

But she isn't.

And she is far from it.

Not only do I wonder why. 
I daily wonder when.
And more often than that I wonder how.

But this may be the coolest miracle of this whole process....BIGGER even than my daughter getting out of her wheelchair....I still believe God.

How is that possible???

I don't know.

Somehow my Lord has equipped me with daily grace to persevere in faith.

That sentence seems to trivialize these past 14 years.

Each day of each passing year has met me head on with a choice.

Do I believe or do I quit?

If my feelings were talking I would confess that I have quit believing at some point on every single one of those days.
My flesh can not do this.

But my flesh and my feelings fail me.
They bail on me all the time.
They lead me down destructive paths.

Truth remains.

Even when the thoughts of quitting take aim at my mind.....I am reminded of the One that spoke faith to me.

He has authority over time.
He has authority over impossibilities.
He has gotten me through each moment of each day since her birth and He will continue to do so....

My task is not about knowing anything other than Jesus.

As offensive and unfair and tragic as that seems....I am not entitled to any information about my life that God does not want me to know.

He demands that I know Him.

Knowing Him equips me for what He knows lies ahead of me.

He loves me.
He gives me faith.
He covers me in grace.

The why's may remain until heaven....but He stands with me in the meantime.

"I don't know" is an acceptable answer.

I don't have to know.

His pursuit of us is not that we would know more about our lives.
His pursuit of us gives us access to the One that gives us life.

He is the goal.

This life offers us a choice each day:  believe or not.  

When I demand to know the details I remind myself of Eve.

Genesis 3 opens up with Eve arguing with the serpent over what she could and could not know.

Her need to know led to her to sin.

God had provided a boundary to what she could and could not know.

One day she chose to not believe His way was best.

Not knowing what God has chosen to withhold from us is FOR us.

We must simply believe this on faith.

God is not withholding the best of Himself.

He lets Himself be known.  Fully.  By us.

Instead of allowing the enemy to tempt me with what is being kept from me...

I want to choose to flourish in all that is being lavished upon me.

More love than I can stand.
Faith that can move mountains.
Mercy that defies logic.
And grace that has no end.....

This is Jesus.

This is what He offers.

May we pursue Him.

He is the prize.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An Odd Comfort

I sit here with a heavy heart.

A tired heart.

People I love are hurting.
I am hurting.

Life is hard.  And sometimes, truthfully, it only gets harder.

There is a hope that rises within me to meet the hard things head on.

Jesus Christ is the hope of glory.  He is within me. (Col.1:27)

Now more than ever this realization has become my reality.

When I rise....He alone is my hope.
When I sleep....He alone is my hope.

No unknown can shake it.
No diagnosis can take it.
No situation can diminish it.

The word.
The thought.
The possibility brings comfort.

There is a passage that has tendered my heart recently.

I don't know about you but when hurt and heartache seem to loom over me...I want to somehow make myself stop feeling any of it.  I want to be calloused to it.

This word in 2 Corinthians gives us no such permission.

We must feel the hurt to receive a heavenly comfort.

"All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source of every mercy and the God who comforts us.  He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.  You can be sure that the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ.  So when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your benefit and salvation! For when God comforts us, it is so that we, in turn, can be an encouragement to you.  Then  you can patiently endure the same things we suffer.  We are confident that as you share in suffering, you will also share in God's comfort." 2 Corinthians 1:3-7

This passage does not sugar coat the reality of suffering.

Troubles will come.
Suffering is a by product of life on this earth.

But there is a double return.

I know.  I wish there was no pain.  I wish there was no suffering.
But we messed that up a long time ago.
That was God's original plan as well.
Now we need mercy....

And he made a way.

Comfort will come.

God. Will. Comfort.

He uses His Holy Spirit.
He uses His Word. Music. Prayer. Rest. Nature. Food.

But I have been blown away by people. 

Here is that double return part.

In addition to a holy God comforting me, He sends others to comfort me as well.

People comfort me.

People that have suffered and hurt somehow dig down into the reservoir of Hope that dwells within them and they offer it to me.

This is the cycle.

Odd isn't it?

Pain produces comfort.

Comfort comes from pain.

Only God.

He created a world free of sin.
We sinned anyway.

He provided a way to heaven at the cost of His One and Only Son, Jesus.

His pain.....brought our comfort.
His loss....our gain.

This scripture speaks to the fruitfulness of pain.

Certain circumstances almost kill us.
Life can change in a moment and leave us reeling....

We think we might never be the same again.

Once I can get past my selfishness and think clearly, it helps me so much to know that any pain I endure CAN bring fruit.

Those people that have endured heartache become so tender to others enduring the same.

And then there we are....people helping other people.
Giving the very same comfort that they once received.

Can you imagine God the Father watching His children comfort each other?

His ways are truly wonderful.
His ways are truly odd.

2 people coming together with suffering and pain and offering each other a comfort that surpasses all understanding.

This is God's way.

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and steady, always enthusiastic about the Lord's work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." 1 Corinthians 15:58

Thursday, June 9, 2016

the Blend

Today I introduced my kids to a show that used to mesmerize me as a child.

I am not sure how the gentle and soft-spoken tones of Bob Ross captured my complete attention.  I can remember sitting at my grandmother's house and all else would fade away as I watched this man with very frizzy hair create a masterpiece of nature on canvas.

Now this show is on Netflix.

And guess what?

Those old episodes still draw you in.

We were fixated on the television like we were watching some brilliant magic show.

My kids even said things like, "How does he do that" and "I can't believe the trees look so real."

It does seem magical.

The artist can see in advance what we (the audience) cannot see.

He has already envisioned it.

He takes a plain canvas and brings life.  Literally a scene comes into view that delights everything about what the eye is seeing.

At one point today he began painting the sky over an ocean at sunset.

He mixed colors that one would never dream to use in a sunset.

If I told you to picture a sunset in your mind's eye you would think warm colors....oranges, yellows, reds, pinks and purples.

Those colors were present just as you would imagine.

But then he blended in some darkness.

Blunt bruising type colors.

He would take his paint brush and merge those warm colors with hints of black, dark blue, and deep purple.

The contrast was stark at moments and you would almost think he had ruined the picture.

But blending those colors brought the depth that made it look completely real.

The dark ominous colors made the light colors richer somehow.

Immediately the Lord spoke to me.....

There are so  many times that I seem to follow the picture He is painting in the story of my life.  I enjoy it even.  Some times it is the cool colors of refreshing and encouragement.  Other times I enjoy the warm colors that seem to let me bask in love, mercy, and grace.
Its the moments when he jabs the canvas with darkness that my view of the masterpiece become jaded.

The dark colors represent fear, doubt, uncertainty and the unknown to me.

And is the blending of dark colors that adds the depth and realness like nothing else.

Nothing shook up my faith in the Lord Jesus until my world went black.

My Savior saw the picture in advance.

He added deliberate darkness to my life.

And the blending began.

Today I see shades and hues of beauty that would have never existed without the brutality of that darkness.

For almost 14 years He has been painting a masterpiece of redemption and faith in my life.

Real faith.
The faith that has to work when nothing else will.

Once upon a time my faith was built upon predictability.

THAT is no faith at all.

Jesus loved me enough to help me shed a false faith.

He knew true satisfaction would come with trust.

And trust only happens when we get to know Him.

Scratching the surface of Jesus was no longer enough.

I had to know Him.
I wanted all of Him.
I needed Him more than my next breath.

The darkness did that.  

With a brilliancy that confounds Maker knew that despair would drive me to desperation and desperation would give me depth.

How deep the Father's love for us.
How vast beyond all measure.
That He would give his only Son;
To make a wretch His treasure.

If I say,  "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night." Even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness is as light to You...
Psalm 139:11-12

Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Smallest Hope

Maybe you are like me and you find yourself longing for more.
More peace.
More comfort.
More strength.
More joy.
.......just more good.

I recognize it in the eyes of others as well.


As I live each day I learn more and more that God chooses to allow things that boggle my mind.

I am challenged to believe that His ways are not just above my ways. His ways are usually in a different galaxy.  He works in such mystery that sometimes I don't see Him at all.

Since February our family has been trying to work through an enormous loss.

We miss Shep's parents so deeply.
We lost them 18 days apart.
It still does not seem remotely real.  Except for the fact that weeks and months have gone by and I haven't heard their voices.

Several things have happened where I instinctively picked up my phone to call his mom or send her a picture.

And then...reality hits with a fresh wave...and loss takes your breath away again.

Meanwhile I have friends walking through loss as well.

Serious and severe loss.

Just like me they are longing for the world that seemed steady beneath their feet just 6 months ago.

We didn't know then what was waiting on us....

I love that God made us not just to serve Him but to serve and love others as well.

But, as you know, loving and serving others means opening yourself to feeling what they feel.

I am finding that the best way to be a friend is to jump into their pool of pain.  You may not have an answer but your presence alone can cheer and comfort.

All of this my life and in the lives of those I love is about more than I can stand.

Surely the Lord knows I have reached my limit.

But do we really have one?

A limit, I mean.

Is that weird that I would even assume that?

My mind can drift back and recall my heroes of the faith.

I would have sworn that their personal limit of pain was reached way before any change occurred.

Abraham was called to leave.  Everything.  Pick up and go to a destination he would be told.

Most of us would say that calling alone was enough to stress a man to his limit.

This was only the beginning for Abraham.

How about Daniel?

He was taken captive early in life.

I mean if I were kidnapped and taken to a different country then I am not sure I would think my journey with faith was just beginning.  I would think that surely the climax has happened.

He received such a compliment from God that his suffering was personally appointed.

He lost money and fortune.
He lost children.
He lost his health.
I wonder if he thought he had even lost his mind?
He lost time.
He lost his dream.

Yet....he did not lose God.

Faith must be chosen.  Over and over.

Salvation is not the same as daily faith.

I smile at a lot of people that I would call brothers and sisters in Christ that are sealed and saved by having placed their faith in  Jesus.

I know far less than that who are willing to wait, hope, believe, endure suffering, ridicule, pain, heartache, betrayal and loss and STILL boast of a fruitful and joyful faith.

This is not a pious attempt at judgement.  I get it.

Following Jesus through deep pain and loss is gut-wrenching.

If you are like me you look toward heaven and think, "you could stop this." 

So my best guess as a fellow traveler through this world is that there is not a limit to pain.

There is a parallel to pain though.

Grace has no limit.
Mercy is continually new.
Love abounds.
Light (even a sliver of it) can shatter the darkness.
And hope is the beacon that never quits calling us.

My husband and I have been waiting, believing, hoping for God to do the miracle He has told us He will do: heal our daughter.

This June will be 14 years.

If you are calling me an idiot I don't really blame you.

Pretty sure I would give myself that label.

But hope cries out to me even louder.

I would have told you that I reached my pain and sadness limit years ago.

Turns out~ I was wrong.

God knew he would be growing me in grit.  A strength would emerge to surprise even me.

Let me encourage you with the words of Isaiah.  Some of you, like me, are hanging on to the smallest hope....

"Look at my servant, whom I strengthen.  He is my chosen one, and I am pleased with him.  I have put my Spirit upon him.  He will reveal justice to the nations.  He will be gentle- he will not shout or raise his voice in public.  He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope...." Is.42:1-3

These beautiful words were written about our Jesus long before he ever came to this world.  But his purpose was clear.  He would come to bring the Spirit of God to a dying world.

But He doesn't stop with salvation. Although he certainly could.

He is especially attentive to those who are weak and have the smallest hope.

That would be me.

Maybe that is you too.

I will choose even the smallest hope over no hope at all.

Oh Father help me to walk in the fullness of joy you have for me.  Pain is all around and some days I feel smothered underneath it. I repent of apathy and laziness to fight for my faith. You came to this earth and endured pain and suffering.  You say to me that I can have full faith in the midst of heartache.  Please help me with that.  Also help me to love and serve those around me that are struggling as well.  We want grit and stubbornness in our faith.  Help us to choose it when it feels absurd to do so.  You are so worth it.  You are faithful.  Make us worthy to live out this righteousness for your Name's sake.  I love you Jesus. Amen.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

DO it

God's Word hit fresh this week as I was reminded how much I love to listen and then walk away.

I mean listening counts for something, right?

Listening requires effort.
Listening requires time.
Listening means I actually care about what is being heard.

We can listen to the right music, the right friends, amazing teachers, incredible authors, even God's Word....but still be useless.

In fact, most of us may fall into this category.

Sorry if that hurt your feelings.  It hurt mine too.

But truth is truth no matter whose toes get stepped on in the process.

Listening is a good start.  But to stop there means we are stopping short of the entire purpose of listening.

"For if you just listen and don't obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing about your appearance.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you keep looking steadily into God's perfect law- the law that sets you free- and if you do what it says and don't forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it." James 1:23-25

There are blessings at stake here.

I do not want to cheat myself out of a blessing from God.  Do you?

Let's do this y'all.

Listening to God's Word is step 1.
Obedience to God's Word is step 2.

AS a result of following through with obedience we actually show our faith.

Without obedience....we are simply good listeners.  Nothing more.

"So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith.  Faith that doesn't show itself by good deeds is no faith at all- it is dead and useless." James 2:17

I bet some of you (like me) have been listening a long time.

God has told you to do something.

Maybe you have heard Him tell you to forgive someone...
to persevere in a difficult situation...
to believe Him for healing...
to share the gospel with a friend....
to serve your enemy....
to bless someone financially while remaining anonymous....
to go to someone that has wronged you....
to be generous in your giving...
to trust people although you have been hurt....
to go to counseling....
to repent of your ongoing sin....
to love someone instead of hate them....
to speak with kindness instead of hate...
to fast and pray with joy and diligence....

Whatever it have listened and heard His voice.

Go DO it.

Let your faith be evident in your actions.

A blessing awaits....

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Unpacking the Grief...Or Not.

I have not been able to bring myself to sit at this computer and formulate many thoughts....much less write an entire blog post.

Today I will try.

Shep's mama~ our Granny...the heart of the family...lover of Jesus...servant to all...the consummate cheerleader...the eternal optimist...the cook...the garden whisperer...the conversationalist...the warm hug that greeted you upon each visit...closed her eyes to this world and began life anew in glory.

Within 18 days we lost, not one, but two giants in our world.

Shep's daddy was silent strength and fortitude.
Shep's mama was the sound, smell, and sweetness of the farm.

All at once we find ourselves without them.

It still hardly seems real.

If I try I can close off the reality of it.  Because we live 45 minutes from the farm I can just imagine that they are there and we will see them soon.

Out of sight really can help with out of mind.

Being at the farm, however, is an all together different thing.

The vacancy of what was~ is deafening.

I am certain that the days ahead will bring with it our learning curve of this weird new season.

Right now none of us know what to do with ourselves when we are there.

Since leaving the farm following the funeral we have come back to our house and slipped back into our routine.

There is some measure of healing in that.

Routine helps us all.

It reminds us that not all normalcy is lost...

So many people have written cards, sent texts, brought meals and held us up in their prayers.

The questions I get over and over are these, "How are y'all doing?  How is Shep?"

The honest answer to that is that we are doing okay for being in a place we have never been before.

Heaven with the Lord Jesus is this hope we know and cling to that brings the smile.

But there is today and the many tomorrows that lay ahead....all of them without two of the people that mean the most.

I am learning and laughing a little about what is appropriate to say and NOT to say the next time someone I know loses a loved one.

(I used to be ignorant about what to say to a parent of a special needs child....until I became one.  I used to be ignorant about words to offer someone grieving the death of a close loved one...until I became one.  
Going through something difficult does bring the gift of knowing how to handle that particular thing. There is still plenty that I haven't been through that I know nothing about.  And I am quite sure I remain ignorant on those things.)

For believers the given is heaven.

That is the most obvious comfort.

We know they are there.

But to say, "don't be sad because they are in a better place" makes the person left behind feel a little guilty for a sadness they cannot help having.

Loss and grief are hard enough.
Don't make someone feel badly for their sadness too.

The BEST thing to say to someone that is suffering a major loss is simply this, "I am so sorry."

If that seems too simple or leaves you with the need to do more....then DO something for them.

Say less.

For us the loss of Shep's parents feels put away at the moment.

Have you ever come home from a weekend trip away and just left your bag sitting there??

I tease Shep because almost every hunting or fishing trip ends like this.

He comes home and his bag stays at the end of our bed.

Untouched. Unpacked.

One time (trying to prove a point) I left it there just to see how long he would leave it.

Turns out....the bag didn't bother Shep at all.  I think I left it there for almost 3 weeks before my OCD went into complete overdrive.

 He would have been happy to leave it there until his next trip.

The truth is for him that bag holds the memories of a trip that was fun and full of memories made.

Unpacking the bag means the trip is officially over.

We came home from that second funeral and threw our bags of grief down.

Those bags are still sitting there.

Unopened. Untouched.

Unpacking the grief of it all means that they really are gone.

That chore can wait awhile....each one has their own pace.

So, until then, we cry when a fresh wave of reality washes over us.
We catch our breath when we pick up the phone to call them.
We laugh at silly things they would do or say.

We live life today.
We wallow in the grace of this new place.

We continue to trust the One that gives....and takes away.

We resolve to declare that the Lord Jesus is still good.

We know that their departure only solidifies the task before us.

"... to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:10

Friday, February 19, 2016

How Good It Is

My mind is having a bit of trouble grasping that we are nearing the end of February.

Christmas was just 2 weeks ago, right? 

Actually the past few months have been most difficult.

I am not sure how I can look back and time has seemed to drag AND fly by at the same time.

Just over 2 weeks ago we said goodbye to Shep's daddy.

His life here on this earth is over.  My heart ached to watch my sweetheart lose the man that taught him how to be one.

For months we watched his health decline.

Yet we hoped he would turn a corner and improve.

We wanted him here with us.

I was honored to have several days that were well spent at the hospital.  I would drive up and keep my mother in law company.

Her place was beside her man.

She took vows long ago that declared she would be by his side in sickness and in health.

That she was.

Their love and loyalty to each other would leave me breathless on most visits.

I even tried to capture some sweet moments with my phone without infringing on the tenderness of them.

These two photos were taken as she sang over him.

I just sat there and took it all in.

Her beloved husband was slipping away from her.

In faith and surrender she sang about her Savior.

It was extraordinary.

It was one of love's finest moments.

We celebrated his life and home-going on Sunday, February 7th.

All three of his sons and his son in law spoke about Pop.  Each one painting an accurate picture of the man we loved.

That evening I found myself hating to leave the farm.

I despised death and I despised that it left my sweet mother in law without her love of 60 years.

The farm even felt, different, like it was mourning the loss of its long time friend and caretaker.

We lingered as long as possible.  We laughed.  We cried.  We remembered and told stories.

I hugged her tight and long and promised to check in with her the next day.

Monday came and we exchanged encouraging texts.

My heart was still so heavy for her loneliness and grief.

By Wednesday evening I noticed she had not responded to my text message from that day.

I would soon learn that my sweet mother in law was in the hospital battling a twisted bowel.  She was very very sick.
Since then she has endured 2 surgeries to remove dead tissue and remains in  the ICU.  Her body is not recovering like we want.

I have no idea what God is doing and I certainly don't understand the timing and the pain of it.

But He has and is tending to our hearts.

Pain and grief can do a good work in us.

It softens my heart and strengthens my resolve.  At least that is what I have found.

Only God could pull that off.

Each day in the past week has brought with it uncertainty.

For that alone I have relished in the certainty of my God.

I run to Him.

I hide in His arms.

I cry and weep and groan there.

And I sense His peace and comfort.

How Good It Is!

If you knew my mother in law she would be tickled to know end that I would be bragging on her Jesus this way.

Even with my heart longing for the sound of her voice...she would chide me to search to hear His.
Even with grief overwhelming my senses....she would tell me to think upon His goodness and grace.

I am not sure what pain you are enduring this day.

His comfort trumps any other.
His peace is this mysterious gift that engulfs you.
His mercy reaches past your anger...even at Him.

"But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do." Psalm 73:28

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Not How....But Who

Recently a new friend and I were exchanging texts.

She asked my opinion on a difficult subject.

In her zeal and hunger for the Lord, her mind wanted to somehow fathom how He can be who He is and how He can do what He does.

As I read her text I tried to think through a response that would prove WHO God is and HOW He holds all things together.

I am not sure that a response like that even exists.

No person can grasp the HOW of God.

How He creates something from nothing.
How death answers to Him.
How He can know every single person that has ever lived and those yet to live.
How He names the stars and still bends low to listen to my voice.
How suffering works a glorious purpose.
How a virgin can give birth.
How water can be turned to wine.
How sinners can be clothed with grace and made new.

These statements don't even begin to scratch the surface of our how questions.

The How's of God are endless.

We will wear ourselves out worrying over questions that are already handled.

The How of God isn't our concern.

He invites us, instead, to WHO He is.

This answer would seem to be simple and concise, yet it isn't.

The answer to the WHO of God is like a gift each morning...sitting there waiting to be unwrapped.

The recipient of that gift gets to be delighted and surprised by a God that dares to rock our worlds and meet us with the grace to ground our feet.

He is the answer to our deepest longing.
He is the mystery novel we cannot figure out AND we cannot put down.
He is the drink of water that seems to refill itself and quench our most parched places.
He can be seen in the written words of scriptures as well as the a sunset that won't let us look away.
He stands guard and never sleeps.
He will right every wrong.
He is light and no darkness dwells in Him at all.
He is intimate with our secrets and yet the vastness of the universe is under His feet.
He was faithful.
He is presently faithful.
He will always be faithful.

I have several obstacles staring me in the face that taunt me with their size and immovability.

Fear wonders how.
Faith believes who.

The choice is mine.

If you find yourself fretting....check your choice.

God invites us into His divine space.

The place where our yoke is easy and our burden is light.

Have you ever been under extreme anxiety, heartache or stress and wondered how our burden can be light?

Because our only responsibility is to know God.

And He desires to be known.


Knowing Jesus Christ gives us everything we need to face the unknown that lies ahead.

(Revelation 21:3 NIV) And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Jack Squat

The title of my post is exactly what I really know about love.

I love my people as much as a wife and mother can possibly love them.

However my love has limits.

Who knew?

We began our study of Hosea this past Thursday.

Worst fears confirmed.

Conviction has not left me.

As I have read the scriptures and done the homework in our study book I realized that I love so selfishly. is our awesome God's love:

Love is patient and kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast
and is not proud.
Love is not rude or self-seeking.
Love is not easily angered.
It keeps no records of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil.
Love rejoices with the truth.
Love protects.
Love trusts.
Love hopes.
Love perseveres.
(1 Cor. 1: 4-7)

And....this would be my lived out version of love:

Love is hurried and nice when nothing is wrong.
It tries not to envy others but fails a lot and doesn't really feel badly about it.
My love boasts when I do easy things or
when I want others to notice my achievements.
Love is only rude when it has to be...
especially if someone is needlessly rude to me.
Love seeks my way first and then worries what others will think.
My love remembers the reasons why I can't trust people.
My love doesn't really delight in evil...unless it contradicts with
things I like to watch or say or think about. 
Love rejoices when good things happen to other people...
and then I wonder when it is my turn.
Love protects only those I deem worthy.
Love trusts up to a point.
Love hopes as long as it doesn't feel stupid or embarrass me.
Love perseveres until I grow tired or bored.

I sit here mortified of the truth that is staring back at me from this screen.

God alone is capable of loving us with this crazy supernatural love described in the book of 1 Corinthians.

Because His Spirit lives inside of me I can choose to love that way also.

Not all the time.
Not perfectly.

But how about more often than now?

That would be a nice start.

Love is the basis of Christianity.

So why are we Christians so lousy at doing it?

It is the scandalous word that causes sinners to pause and wonder.

Are we really loved?

The answer is undeniably yes.

Jesus came to show us love.

A love we had never known.

A love so shocking that the enemy chooses to help us question it.

What is most difficult in your life at this moment?

Crippling fear?
Unending bills?
A person?
A situation?

Whatever your thing can only help it.

To know and believe that you are loved beyond your wildest dreams will free something bound within you.

What I love about our Lord Jesus is that He intends to teach us how to love by doing the hard work first.

Romans 5:8 states it beautifully, "but God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

Think about your sin.

Really think about it.

If many thoughts don't immediately come to you...then hear me: you are in serious denial.

Sadly we (and I) have become so familiar with our sin and our selves that we can scarcely separate the two.

Hate to break this to you but, just like me, you are a filthy wretch.

ANYTHING good about us is Jesus.

If you have a good clean thought.  It is because of Him.
If you forgive someone.  It is because of Him.
If you choose joy...
If you step forward in faith....
If you think kindly towards others....
If you obey something so difficult....
If you exert self-control....

Give credit where credit is due.  JESUS.

The Spirit of Almighty God equips you.  He works in you to do His will.

Now back to love.

It is this simple.

When your sinfulness is fresh on your mind.
His love washes over you like sunshine on your face.
You smile~ because how can you not?
Your sin should shake His love.

But it doesn't.
Not one little bit.

When you walk in a love you did not earn...
you are free to give that same love to others.

Admit it.

You don't know jack squat about selfless love either.

THAT is the love that changes the world.

Teach us Lord to trust a love we cannot fathom.
Help us to wallow in it.
It blows me away that You would place Your love within me and entrust the likes of me to spread it to others.
I mess up so much.
But Your love never shrinks back.
It never fails.  Even when we do.
I love you Lord.
As much as I can at this moment.
But I am made to love even more.
Teach me.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Blank Pages of Life

It has been difficult to think about writing this post.

I fear that any effort to describe what God spoke to my heart is going to be futile.

However...I press on....feeling strongly that others of you out there may need a bit of encouragement just as I did.

Leave it to the God of Heaven to speak it to me just days ago while I walked my big ol' puppy dog.

It was a rare morning free from the duties of children.

After savoring quiet time, coffee and a slow pace I set out to pray and walk our dog, Jasper.

I had made an entire lap around our neighborhood.  Jasper was enjoying the walk tremendously as if he knew there was really no hurry.  Prayers for friends and specific situations had lingered on my lips with each step.

As I neared my own house I offered up prayers for my own children.  I asked God to make them courageous and bold for His Name sake.  I asked that they would be individuals of faith and strong character.  I specifically asked the Lord to help them know the  HE is the author and finisher of the story of their lives.

Even as I spoke the words to the Lord he showed me a glimpse of myself.

(I know that is hard to understand.  Believe is also frustrating to try to explain.)

What I saw was myself standing before the Lord God with my own life story in my hands and the pages were blank.  My expression sad and doubtful.

Here I was asking God to help my children know that He is authoring the journey of their lives.  And yet I have somehow stepped away from believing it myself.

What God wanted to do was help me.

The pages in my book feel empty these days.

Days stretch into weeks and weeks fly by into months and before I know it life is going by and it seems that my purpose is going with it.

My story has become mundane.

More than that my eyes have begun to wander and look at others. I even use the wicked measuring stick of comparison. Yuck.

Somehow I see life and joy and purpose happening for others.  Their stories seem vibrant with hope, adventure and possibility.

Then I look back at my story.

It seems void of those things.

My story seems to have stalled out.

Sadly I even start believing what I feel.  I begin to fall for the lie that God is no longer writing any words in my story.

The days that pass are simply blank pages.

I believe this overwhelming feeling that grips me is what happens when hope is deferred.  Proverbs chapter 13 verse 12 speaks of this.  This verse describes the heart of a person becoming sick because of hoping for something day after day.

Over thirteen years ago we believe God spoke to us.

When our daughter was born severely disabled from a birth injury we cried out to Him.  He answered us.

The answer He gave us was unbelievable on every level.

~I am going to heal your daughter. Simply believe what I say.~

It is more difficult to believe His words today than it was then.


Thirteen years is why.

I still change her diaper 6 or so times a day.
I still hook up a tube to her belly and give her milk to sustain her life and health.
I carry her in my arms just as I did when she was an infant.
I seek to understand and communicate with her because she can cry, yell, laugh, or babble.

My heart is sick because my hope is deferred.

God has chosen it to be so.

So it feels like the story I thought would be written by now is not only on hold...but fear says it will never be finished.  At least not finished with a miraculous healing.

I believe God allowed me see where I have drifted.  Unknowingly.

My pages are not blank.

God is always at work.

However when my eyes look at the circumstances of everyone else instead of being fixed upon Jesus Christ I cannot see correctly.

In other words comparison dulls spiritual vision.

As believers we have eyes that should be able to see and discern spiritual things.

The more I entertain doubt, jealousy of others, comparison, and envy my spiritual eyes lose sight of what He is writing in my story.
*****Thus giving the enemy a perfect opportunity to pounce on my feelings******

When my eyes are fixed and focused on the person of Jesus Christ my spiritual eyes are sharpened I begin to see words appear on those blank pages.

Carnal eyes cannot see the work of the Spirit.

John 14:17 are the words of Jesus Christ. He is talking to his followers about the Holy Spirit.  He says, "He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.

Wallowing in my pity and limiting the scope of my vision to the lives of others is a very quick way to disturb the work of the Holy Spirit in my own life AND to distort my spiritual vision.

Isaiah 26:3 says that a mind fixed on God will be kept in perfect peace.

There is no perfect life.

But His peace is perfect.  It can settle and satisfy me when nothing else will.

Maybe you are like me.

Maybe you are quick to look around and compare your life with those around you.
Maybe you feel as though He has forgotten you.
Maybe what you thought would be has not happened.
Maybe the pages of your story seem blank.

Empty of purpose.  Empty of peace. Empty of His Presence.

I will ask you the same thing that the Holy Spirit gently asked me.

Where is your gaze?

If your eyes stay focused on tv, social media, movies, gossip and the lives of others then trust cannot see what God is writing.

Your spiritual eyes cannot help but be dull to His supernatural activity.

Know this....He is always writing our story.  

I needed to be reminded that I was looking in the dark.
My pages only seemed empty.  His words have always been there.  
My eyes have simply been looking everywhere else....

His presence and the light of who He is illuminates the story of my life.  Words appear on the pages that seemed blank.  

Words of purpose.  
Words of promise.
Words that are weaving the remarkable story of making you more like Jesus.

He is faithful and true.

Stay fixed on Jesus fellow warrior.

Come what may your story is meant to be miraculous.