Our Stories

We all hold stories. Good stories, hard stories, stories of faith and failure, stories of peace and pressure. These stories shape us, but sometimes it feels like they might break us. We create meaning from these stories. The meaning comes based on our age, our resources, the information we have at the time and the influence of those around us. If we have help, this meaning can be true and right. But sometimes we make sense of these stories all by ourselves…

I was on a run today and began to remember some old, hard stories, ones that held a lot of unknowns. When looking back, I noticed my most anxious times in life are held in places when the answers were not near or in sight. Places where I decided God was deaf or blind or cruel and I had to figure it all out. Atleast that is what my broken human brain decided in order to make sense of things.

We all have something that sends our bodies over or under or out of whack. If we paid attention a little more to those cues, those anxious cues, we might find a story there: A time when we didn’t know what to do or where to turn, a time when we felt confused or alone or ashamed, a time when no good answer was in sight and the waiting was hard…

I believe our bodies hold our stories and many times the meaning we try to make of this world and its pain, just isn’t grounded in truth. We try to make sense of the hard with our human minds, our human resources and with the humans around us. But that’s the problem, we are human. And as believers, we know humanity is broken. So have you ever considered, many of the stories we hold and their meaning are based on broken human understanding? So maybe, just maybe, we need to revisit these narratives through an eternal lens instead of our human one. Maybe we need some help.

I began to pray through these hard stories this morning, pray for an eternal perspective, pray to see the heavenly resources that were present, pray to see what God had placed in the unknown to support me during these hard spaces. I began to remember my grandmothers, biscuits in their kitchens and honeysuckles in their yards. I saw my mom braiding my hair and ironing my favorite striped dress as a child. I saw my church family and my dad’s strong hand on my shoulder. I saw my boys playing in the yard and my husband hugging them. I saw friends and neighbors. I began to remember all the stories of how I’ve been held and surrounded during the unknowns.

You see, the body holds ALL the stories, the hard ones and the good ones. We forget the good ones sometimes. And just as the stories of the unknown scare me, there are so many stories of how God sent many known things to me. I want to spend some time there, in what’s known, what’s true. I want to revisit some of those hard places with the mind of Christ instead of my broken one.

I want to access heaven’s eyes as I remember. How did heaven see my stories, my pain, my not-knowing?  Because you see, heaven knows. Heaven holds my savior and both my fathers, and a mighty angel army that fights for me and you. And those heaven-eyes are the ones I want to use when I approach something hard, don’t you?  I think there is something prideful about assuming my brain can interpret anything correctly without the help of the One who created it. So, that begs the question, what stories do I need to reconsider and maybe just surrender? What interpretations have I made that were formed when I had the mind of a child, or a confused teen, or an exhausted young mom? 

Jesus is good and strong and He knows it all and holds it all. He is full of wisdom and kindness. He created us and He was there in the midst of every story, the hard ones, the good ones, the ones that shaped us and the ones that might break us. He is also a great story teller. I wonder, are there some stories in us that He might tell a different way? I’ve come to know Him lately as a truth teller and someone I can trust. Maybe, just maybe, we could use His help, we could trust Him with these stories, to heal us in the hard ones, and to highlight the oh, so good ones. 


The Source of it all

We had just finished up a packed December Sunday. It was Sam’s birthday, we attended church, I did some laundry, Mack baked, we went back to church for an evening Christmas service and ended the night with a fire and a movie. Oh, and I curled my hair. Geez, I am tired just writing all of that. The kids were finally in bed, and I went to check on our elf, Ralph. He was sitting by the fire, getting ready to make a s’more. After making sure he was not going to melt, I noticed the heat from the fire we had lit earlier. I looked in the fireplace to make sure the embers were dying, and I could feel the warmth on my face. Something in my spirit told me to pause. I noticed the bright orange glow in the embers, the contrast of their color next to the gray ash, the texture in the wood, and I just sat for a sacred minute breathing in real heat. Nothing artificial. This was the real deal. I realized, I haven’t paused enough this season. It felt nice to just sit near the warmth for a moment. 

The movie we watched tonight was The Croods, a silly story about the survival of some cartoon cavemen. Cavemen, who had to light their own fires, and survived because of its heat. Nothing artificial for them, no heaters or blankets or fuzzy socks, just the real heat from a fire. This heat was a source that kept them alive.

During these quiet moments tonight, I thought on the sermon from the morning, a reminder of The Source, King Jesus, the ultimate reason we celebrate this holiday. I saw in my mind the candlelight service from earlier this evening, hundreds of candles lit against the dark sky in honor of Jesus. I realized I too felt like a caveman, tired and just surviving the season. I sat next to this real fire and breathed in its deep heat and my heart was flooded with gratitude for all the signs today pointing me towards Him.

It wasn’t lost on me that as this fire was on my left, my artificial Christmas tree was on my right, the beautiful flocked tree that I so desperately wanted last year. When I breathe deep next to it, I sneeze as the glitter and fake snow enter my nostrils. A real, hot fire on my left and a fake plastic tree on my right. This felt like a metaphor of the last few weeks of my life, stuck in the middle between the source of the season, Jesus, and the frantic, anxious place that the pressures of the holiday brings. The pressure to get it all done, have it look right, check off the lists, the lights, the cookies, the Santa pic, the Christmas cards…it makes it hard to breathe sometimes. But when I sit and ponder the birth of my Savior, the source of my survival, my heart can rest and my lungs fill up with peace and I am still. 

I haven’t taken the time to write in a while, and I recently asked God to open my eyes to stories right in front of me, good words that my soul needed. When I am rushed and stressed, I am not present and the words don’t seem to come. Today was different, the church services, the movie, and the fire seemed to all be screaming at me to wake up, to pay attention to the messages in front of me. 

Like the Croods, we all live as cavemen sometimes, just trying to survive, just trying to stay safe. The dad caveman says, “Never not be afraid” to his family a lot. Cavemen had to live that way, to stay warm and to stay fed and to stay alive. I think I’ve been living like a tired Christmas caveman, in survival mode, scanning for what’s not done, looking for the list, running at a frantic pace… 

Please understand, I love Christmas, I love all the traditions, the elf (well not so much), the wrapping, the music and movies. It’s one of my favorite times of year…but I don’t love the pressure I put on myself and I don’t love how I get tangled up and forget the source of it all. I don’t like my Christmas caveman brain. I don’t want to just survive this season. I don’t want it to feel forced and rushed with glitter and fake snow up my nose.

I want to move towards the real source of heat, my only means of survival. I don’t have to scan for anything out of place, because I know He holds it all in place for me. I want to breathe deep in the promise of that dirty manger. I want to lean into the sacrifice of Mary and Joseph, the risk they took and the faith they held. I want to feel the warmth that comes from acknowledging that my Jesus left His throne and said yes to this earth, and yes to you and me. 

As I finish writing, Mack comes downstairs. We talk about his week of baking and midterms, the fire comes back to life a bit, and this time I see blue in the flames. I notice the sound, the crackling of the wood, I hear the dryer upstairs, and I stare at my super tall, handsome son. I feel present and calm and I am thankful. I am thankful for this reminder today from church, a children’s movie, and a fire, that I don’t have to live like a caveman, I am not just surviving. I get to slow down, and breathe deep, and say Merry Christmas and most of all, thank you, sweet Jesus. 

“I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in HIM. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.” ROM. 15:13


No Longer Orphans

“There were still some good things in the land of Judah…” 2 Chronicles 12:12 NLT

With clients, with kids, with myself and in my small world, I am trying to remember this verse…there are still some good things in the land. In times of uncertainty, especially as we hold these fragile days lightly, it can be hard for some of us to have eyes to see the good in the land. 2 Chronicles tells stories of broken kings, leading their people further and further away from the truth and commands of God. Leaders, that the people asked for, continued to protect themselves and their reputation instead of trusting God. Sound familiar? But there were a few good souls God had the eyes to see…some good things in the land of Judah. I am praying for these God-like eyes to see…to see the beauty, to stay present, to remember that His faithfulness in the past means He is still faithful today. 

I sat with a young client recently, who was struggling with anxiety from family crisis. His breathing was shallow. With tears filling his eyes, and his neck growing red, he began to tell the story. In the midst of his fear, all his body felt was uncertainty. He was worried, he was scared. He couldn’t find the good in the land.

Anxiety reminds us of what we don’t have, what we can’t do, and what we don’t know. Anxiety makes it very hard to see any good things in the land. As he shared, I reflected on my own anxious week, how I was living in the what ifs, the worst case scenarios, and my countless mistakes. It had been a tough few days and I felt a little beat up, just like the young man on my couch. He and I decided to make a shift and begin to spend some time focusing on what he did have, what he could do and what he did know. He could still watch his favorite movies and share with a friend. He could still sing songs loudly and laugh really hard. He still had his favorite sweat shirt and routines. He did still know that God was in control and that his mom was close by. As he realized all he had, and could do, and all the things he still knew, his breath deepened, his smile peered again and he sank a little into the couch. Some of the panic was gone. I felt calmer too. 

We then talked a bit about anxiety and how it keeps us feeling without..and that really doesn’t feel good. In my mind, anxiety seems to keep us in a very poor state, kind of like an orphan. Do you see it? Orphans live this life of poverty, not having, not doing and not knowing. They live in survival mode, never knowing what is next, who will care for them and if they will make it. Anxiety keeps us living like orphans, in mental and spiritual poverty. It keeps us feeling threatened, on guard, and hungry. Anxiety is the terror of not having enough, not doing it right and not knowing whose in charge. Anxiety makes us forget.

Oh, but wait, as Christ followers, we don’t have to live like orphans any more! We are called to live like princes and princesses, children of the King….with heads held high because we have so much, His glorious riches. We can do so much because He has good plans already written for us, and we know deep down that He is there and He is safe and He holds everything together. 

But sometimes, it seems, this is so hard for me to know, to remember…

That orphan screams loudly, throwing a temper tantrum even. There is an orphan inside me that has forgotten all I have and can do and know…the orphan forgets it’s been adopted by the King…and so the anxious thoughts keep my stomach upset and my heart racing… The worried mind lives in the regret or shame of the past or the fear of the future…not grounded in what’s true right now. 

We aren’t meant to stay this way though, thank goodness. He has rescued us from our orphan state and called us His own. He has called us out of poverty into blessing. He can calm our anxious thoughts with the deep knowledge of who He is and what all that means. He wastes nothing and uses our poverty hearts to draw us to Him. You see, it’s actually because of our poverty, that our eyes look upward. That’s why we can trust scripture when it says to have joy in our suffering. The suffering, the poverty, leads us to Him!

In our efforts to survive, avoid danger and feed our starving hearts, at the end of us, when we are still hungry, still afraid and unable to care for ourselves, when all our efforts fail, that is what brings us to Him…that is when we can answer the call to become our richest selves. He uses the broken, poor orphan places to bring us into sonship with himself, the most perfect Father, Abba. 

But knowing and remembering…that can feel hard. The forgetting brings the anxiety, but remembering sets our hearts at rest…remembering who we belong to, what we have, what we can do and what we know is true about Him.

Solomon, the wisest king, had some ideas right. For a time, he could see some good things in the land. With his wealth, he really saw most everything and this is what he decided was good….

“Remember Him before the light of the sun, moon and stars is dim to your old eyes.

Remember Him before your legs start to tremble and your shoulders stoop.

Remember Him before your eyes see dimly.

Remember Him before the sound of work fades.

Remember Him before you near the grave.

Yes, remember your Creator now, while you are young…” (Ecc. 12:1-6)

So when, the orphan screams and anxiety creeps….remember who you belong to, remember there are still some good things in the land….


The Power of No

We just wrapped up Spring baseball. Concession stands and bleachers. Baseball bats and dirty pants. We had a lot of fun, but we also saw some disappointment. We made it to the county tournament but then lost the first tournament game. As the coach gathered the team together,  I watched and listened. I saw the boy’s long faces, heard the parent’s angst, and then the coach began to speak. He said great things: “Yes, they worked hard; Yes, they improved”, but what I remember most are the No’s: “No, we did not win, No, I do not have trophies for you.”

He said No a lot this season. “No, you can no longer play third base because you weren’t focused. No, you cannot goof off when I am speaking because I have important things to say. No I am not your friend, I am your coach.” He seemed a little harsh at first, but then I grew to respect his method.

Through Spring ball, I realized, my boy needs a little more No in his life. Maybe I do too…

I am also watching and listening to the adolescents in my counseling practice. They  are struggling with their No’s. Many of these kids have mostly been told Yes all their life. Now that No has shown up, they are in my office and they cannot cope. They do not know how to struggle well, how to even handle a No.

They are hearing: “No, I will not be your friend, No, I will no longer date you, No, you did not pass the test, No you did not make the team. No, you did not get the job, No, we are not staying married”…and they are lost.

They are overwhelmed, overindulged and underprepared… No and struggle scare them to death, literally. Suicide and self harm have become coping skills for these kids.  

I am watching and listening…and I am wondering…what can I offer my kids and my clients? I am watching and listening and I am trying to learn. Why don’t these kids know how to struggle, to handle the No? How well do I handle No?

No has purpose.

Struggle is a part of life, scripture promises its arrival. So why do we avoid it like the plague and keep our kids from experiencing it? Why is the No so hard? Even the seasons have a winter and it comes every year. The day leaves us for night, darkness is around the corner consistently.

What if we grew through the struggle? Spring growth comes after winter, and morning is always there after the dark hours. What if the No, the struggle, the dark, the winter,  served a great purpose for us, for our kids? What if we stopped trying so hard to keep them from the struggle, and let it serve it’s lesson?

No prepares us.

I think this starts with me. I cannot take them further than I’ve gone myself. It can start with letting my kids see me struggle and honor God in the midst of it, letting them see me handle a No well, letting them see No draw me closer to Jesus.

After all, I am raising them up to send them out.

The older they get the more No will hit them, the more struggle sneaks in. And I want them strong enough to handle it, to grow from it, to be prepared for what’s ahead.

No protects us.

As a mom, what does this No look like? Am I honoring God with my schedule, my finances, my relationships? Are there enough Nos in these areas? Have I said Yes to too much? Have I set good boundaries with others, with my kids? Am I allowing No to protect my family? Do they know when or how to say No?

No has power.

I don’t always like it. I wish it was endless summer, I wish it was always Yes, but that isn’t how the world works and that isn’t how God works. So why would I make my kids think that is so?

They are also watching and listening…and learning. They learn about struggle from us. They learn how to walk the tough road by watching us limp and bleed and then hold their hand when they are limping and bleeding. Good and hard can go together.

No can teach us things and struggle leads to surrender and surrender leads to life, which is what Christ modeled for us. He said No to his kingdom, No to his wealth, No to temptation and Yes to death.  He limped and He bled, and the world was watching and listening. His No led to the power that raised Him from the dead, the same power that we have access to. He embraced No so that he could say Yes to us.

2  Cor. 4:17 “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.”

Psalm 119:71 “It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.”

Romans 5:3 “We glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance.”




The finger of God

Growing up in the south, in the Bible Belt, Vacation Bible School was always a summer experience for me and my brother. Mom and Dad were at work on summer days so we mostly stayed with my grandparents over the long 12 week break. Yes, it was 12 weeks back then. 12 weeks of watching TBS and the Braves, and slip n slide and Dairy Queen and VBS. My grandparents sent me to all the VBSs within 10 miles to keep us busy. I tried this with my kids, calling it “Church camp” but they caught on quickly that is was a free babysitting option with snacks. Boo. I don’t remember having a choice, it was VBS or the highway.

During these sweet VBS weeks between the hours of 9:30-12:30, I remember consuming lots of red punch and sugar cookies and there was always a parachute game and a felt board. The parachute was a little nerve wracking because what if you get stuck under this large piece of dirty fabric with strange kids? But the felt board was safe. The green board had all the famous Bible characters stuck to it and their strange stories were told thanks to the power of lamination. Many of these accounts involved  Moses…and sitting on the cold, hard tiled church floor…in a circle. Yes, Moses, you know, the baby in the basket, the Plagues, Pharoah saying “Let my people go” (there was even a song) and the 10 commandments. Moses and the felt boards. 

I was reading about Moses this week and these verses grabbed me: “When the Lord finished speaking with Moses, he gave him the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, written by the finger of God.” Exodus 31:18

“These tablets were God’s work; the words on them were written by God himself.” Exodus 32:16

I am not sure how I thought the 10 commandments were written. I guess I assumed Moses chiseled them with a sharp stone…and they were legible? This was not discussed over red punch and sugar cookies or during the cold floor circle time with the green felt board. But Exodus is clear: the terms of the covenant were written by God himself. 

“Written by the finger of God.” It has stayed with me today…The terms of this covenant, this plan between God and his chosen people was not Moses’ doing. Moses just showed up, he just said yes and climbed the mountain and then God issued the law and wrote it with His finger!

Moses, the baby who was hidden for 3 months and floated down the river in a basket. Moses, the man who was displaced over and over, who left Egypt and ended up with sheep who then encountered a burning bush, only to be moved again, back to Egypt to deliver bad news and finally released from Egypt to wander in the wilderness. Moses, who was never lost from God, never out of his sight.  

Moses, who encountered God on the mountain “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

Moses, when chased by Pharoah’s angry, Egyptian army, looked the at the Red Sea in front of him and thousands of Israelites behind him, and still stepped forward…Moses, full of faith, fully available…for God’s glory. 

God always made a way for Moses: the basket, the river, the burning bush, the tablets, the Red Sea…He always provided…”written by the finger of God.”

Whatever God needed accomplished, He made the provision. For His glory alone…never for Moses’. “Glory to glory” scripture says. His glory to His glory. Not ours. Never ours.

Whatever His plans, what ever He needs, He will provide. He will use His finger to write it out, to make the way. 

When our hearts align with His, when we get out of the way, the pressure is off. The pressure is off to get it all right, to be at the right place at the right time, to say the right thing, look the right way, know the right person. We just have to say yes, to climb the mountain, to step into the sea. He will find us wherever we are, even if it’s in a basket, floating down a river, or wandering in a wilderness…He will find us and He will use whatever and whoever it takes to accomplish His plans.

Because you see, Moses led us to Jesus…on the mountain to get the tablets…for the covenant…the old covenant…written by the hand of God himself….that led to our need for the new covenant…written and paid for by the blood of Jesus… 

He will find you wherever you are and will use whatever you have…if it will lead others to Jesus. It will be for his glory alone. That’s the hard part, laying down all that concerns us, laying down all our crowns, so that he will be glorified…so that everything leads to Jesus.

So…every mountain that needs climbing, every sea that needs crossing…His finger is writing, writing the story that brings Him the glory…that always leads to Jesus.



I had just finished up a load of laundry and went downstairs to the kitchen. The sink was full of pans and bowls, covered in buttercream from my son’s baking adventures for the day. I walked over to the side door to grab the mail and there were 6 pairs of shoes blocking me, all different sizes with grass and dirt on the bottoms. I stepped over them and made my way to the mailbox, passing soccer and basketballs. Once I finally sat on the couch, I noticed my middle son’s ice cream bowl on the end table from the night before.

I finally took a breath and smiled. I smiled for several reasons. Laundry meant I had a family full of people to dirty clothes, buttercream dishes meant Mack had made another creation. Dirty shoes and soccer balls meant friends who love my boys had been over, and a leftover ice cream bowl reminded me of how much Ben love’s sweets. All of this meant life was happening around me, a beautiful life God had given me, full of His bounty.

But I mostly smiled because I could smile. A year ago, all this mess would have frustrated me. I would have sighed and beaten myself up for not being more organized or more on top of the chores or for being lazy. I smiled because smiling meant growth. A sigh of gratefulness meant I was changing. A thankful heart meant my mind was seeing beauty and bounty instead of scanning for problems and feeling lack. This last year has been hard and heavy work for many of us. But the learning has been exponential. So much was taken from us, so it forced many of us to make some choices; stay stuck in the lack or begin to shift and look for beauty and become bounty hunters. 

Bounty: a great harvest, abundant, generous

There is a bounty for us. Sometimes we just have to hunt for it.

God is ever before us. God is timeless. He is setting things up in the heavens and on the earth right now that will benefit and bless and provide bounty for us. He has done things in the past, in His secret space, that we are only realizing today. 

Deuteronomy 1:30 “The Lord your God who goes before you on your way to seek out a place for you to encamp…to show you the way in which you should go.” Bounty. 

In the old testament, God established a law regarding the harvest that would protect the hungry and hurting:  “When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus  19:9

Gleaning was the act of getting the leftovers, so because of this law, the hurting and the hungry would come and glean the wheat or fruit that was left over and would be provided for. 

The book of Ruth tells the beautiful story of Naomi, her daughter-in-law, Ruth, and Boaz. Naomi’s husband and sons die. Ruth and Naomi are both widowed and poor. They leave their land of Moab and return to Judah, Naomi’s homeland, because of rumors of a bountiful harvest there.  Ruth, hurting and hungry, goes to glean from the wealth of Boaz’s field.  

Because of Ruth’s love and care for  Naomi, Ruth’s reputation had gone ahead of her and Boaz knew what she had done. “I know about the love and kindness you have shown your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. May the Lord, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully.” Bounty.

Not only did Ruth receive permission to glean from Boaz’s field, he also showed her great favor. He fed her and told his men, “pull out some heads of barley from the bundles and drop them on purpose for her.”  Naomi’s response at the amount of food Ruth gleaned was, “So much!” Bounty.

Ruth later married Boaz and their lineage leads to the birth of Jesus. Bounty.

God’s law for gleaning went before Naomi and Ruth and provided their survival. It went before Boaz and led to his marriage and family. It also went before Jesus and made a way for his birth. 

Do you see this? Do you see that God is always before us, always ahead of us, making provisions for our good?

God is timeless. He is setting things up in the heavens and on the earth right now that will benefit and bless and provide bounty for us. He has done things in the past, in his secret space, that we are only realizing today. We just need eyes to see, to see the beauty, to become bounty hunters. 

Isa. 45:2 “I will go before you and make the rough places smooth.” Bounty

Believing that God has gone before us requires faith. It requires trust that God keeps his promises and assurance that he sees our hurt and hunger and knows what we need. 

Psalm 37

Vs 3  Trust in the Lord and do good, then you will live dwell in the land and prosper.

Vs 4 Take delight in the Lord and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Vs 5 Commit everything you do to the Lord, Trust him and he will help you. 

7 Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act. 

Are you hurting and hungry today? What is the act of trust you must take? Can you believe he has gone before you? That he has made provisions for your good as he did for Ruth, Naomi, Boaz and even Jesus? 

Can you take delight in Him knowing he saw this difficulty coming and has already made a way through it? Do you trust Him with your heart’s desires? Can you commit this pain or worry to Him and just be still? Can you wait for Him to act?  

This is hard, holy work and it is a big ask, but I know He has not forgotten or overlooked you. He is the God who sees all and knows you. He precedes all and prepares you.

He will come through, just keep your eyes and your hands open. He has already put things in place and is right now setting things in motion to make a way for you, a bountiful harvest.

And you will be able to just glean, to just pick up the bounty off the battlefield. There will be fruit leftover because He always wins the war and His harvest is so large and He is so generous!

Do you believe it? Just watch, just wait, the battle is waged, the heavens are set, the table is being prepared…all for you. 

“The Lord who goes before you will fight on your behalf” (Deut. 1:30) 

Heaven has gone ahead of you and is fighting right now for you. 

Just as it was fighting for Naomi and Ruth as they were hurting and hungry, just as it was fighting for Boaz as he was single and lonely, just as it was fighting for Jesus as he hung on the cross….And bounty came from all their pain. 

God is always before us, always aware of us, making provisions for our good. God is timeless. He is setting things up in the heavens and on the earth that will benefit and bless and provide bounty for us. He has done things in the past, in his secret space, that we are only realizing today. 

Psalm 139:5 “You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing upon my head.” Bounty

Little signs of life

I sent the boys racing out to their carpool pick up this morning. As usual, we were rushing, Ben had one shoe on, and the ground was wet from last nights rain.

As I walked back inside, my eyes spotted Sam’s bunny (the most precious item he owns), an opened toothpaste container and smeared pomade. I have all boys, but their hair is very important and pomade is a necessity.

As I moved into the living room, I saw the Napoleon Dynamite case opened. We had to watch an old fashioned DVD last night since the internet has been down for 2 days. The TV tray was also out, a reminder that Ben used it as a fortnight gaming table the day before.

All messes, but also little signs of life. Signs of the life Chris and I have built. Signs of the life God has allowed me to participate in.

I sat down on the couch for a minute and suddenly realized Easter is fast approaching. Between work, homework, baseball, and cleaning up Mack’s baking messes, I hadn’t even paused to think on Easter, one of my favorite holidays.

I love the spring decorations, egg hunts, and the excuse for everyone (even my boys) to wear pastel. I love filled Easter baskets and chocolate eggs. My mom has always bought me the caramel Cadbury ones since I was little.

But most of all, I love to pause and realize the sacrifice that was made for me. Me and you, broken, mistake-filled humans…Jesus sacrificed his life and rose from the dead on Easter.

Before the boys woke up and made their morning messes, I was reading Isa. 41:8-13. It tells me that God called me, chose me, then took His victorious right hand and grabbed my right hand.

I remember my own dad doing this, holding my hand as we walked through the mall, so he would never lose me. I’ve watched Chris hold the boys’ hands tight countless times when we were in a busy place. I can sense that sweet feeling when little hands and fingers intertwine with mine. Holding hands means love and protection…

The right hand is very significant in the Bible. It is used 166 times and is a sign of power and authority. (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/christiancrier/2015/06/13/what-does-the-right-hand-symbolize-or-mean-in-the-bible/)

So, God the Father, takes His victorious right hand and grabs my right hand, choosing me, keeping me safe, never losing me. I bet He also enjoys the feel of my human fingers intertwined with His divine ones.

If you look close, especially this Easter week, you will see signs of life every where. Little ones and big ones. We have all been in a tough season, where it seemed like signs of death were all around.

But I wonder, could we choose to shift our focus this week and begin to look for ways we know that we are living? That we know He is alive, seated on His throne to the right of His Father? Could we grab His hand a little tighter, see what’s growing, see what’s changing, and celebrate the abundant life we can have because of His death?

I pray you all have the most beautiful Easter this year!

“I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:9

Mr. Don Posey

ED725858-9733-48E2-AA4A-07DE5062BE0BI couldn’t sleep last night. I had just read about the riots and unrest in the nation. I watched a few videos, my social media feed covered with thoughts and statements and images. I haven’t been quite able to gather my thoughts as my emotions seem shallow, not truly deep enough to bear the weight of what others have suffered. I want to use the right words and I just haven’t been able to release them the past few days. I want to honor God and all his children with my words but they weren’t leaving my mind and making it to the page.

Until now and I’m not even sure how good they are, but I want them to be said…there is a story I want to be told…the story of Mr. Don Posey.  

I enjoy story telling and his story feels true and right in the middle of this.

When wrestling with this social and racial tragedy, all I could think of was my more-than-friend, Mr. Don Posey. My husband began calling him Mr. Posey at work. Chris showed up to sell copiers fresh out of college. He was too skinny, too shy and his suit was too cheap.  Mr. Posey walked down the hall with his expensive clothes, strong cologne, cuff links, manicured nails and the most welcoming smile Chris had seen in a while. Chris soon could tell that Mr. Posey loved Jesus too. And so that was all they needed. Mr. Posey was a high ranking salesmen in the company and began to mentor Chris. He soon became a family friend and actually moved into our neighborhood in Norcross, Ga.

We had no children. He was single with grown children so we had all the time in the world to spend together. He demonstrated southern cooking while discussing more and more about Jesus over amazing dinners. We watched movies every Friday night. He taught us so much and tried to explain some about being a black man but we couldn’t really understand. Race didn’t seem to matter when it was the three of us. Chris and I never thought about the color of his skin. But I now understand more than ever that he thought about his skin and being a black man every day of his life.

He was the choir director of his church so he was always singing. He became family to us and we were like his children so close to home. He came to thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. We, his two white children, invaded his single guys night of local black men regularly. And it was wonderful. He was our family one street over, which these two newlyweds needed. This was how it was several nights a week….until…

We moved to Forsyth County, Georgia. Then Mr. Posey wouldn’t come to visit. I didn’t know the history of racism when we moved here. I just needed a job and Cumming offered me one and housing was very affordable. Still Mr. Posey refused to come and we didn’t understand. Finally, we assured him it would be ok. He agreed to come but he brought a friend and said he must leave before dark. He was very anxious during his visit and he left quickly before 5. Nothing like our late movie nights in Norcross.

Not until today did I truly understand why he was so afraid. Not until today and I’m just so sorry. Not until I’ve heard the voices of other black men in the media have I been able to truly grasp the fear of one of my dearest friends. I am grieving over that. That someone I love was so fearful to visit me, a white person, because his life could be in danger.

Mr. Posey died of brain cancer over 12 years ago. It was devastating news and he only survived months. We were more in shock than grief at first. We were asked to sit with the family at the funeral. We entered the church with the family and were placed on the front row. We wept like we had lost a father and a best friend. We were 2 white 20 somethings sitting in black church with a black family for the death of a black man that seemed a father. And we were all just God’s children that day.  And we were nothing but loved.  And he was nothing but love to us. And the thought of him hurting and being afraid is breaking my heart tonight.

And so these are the words I have. That love is what has to connect us all. I am broken and praying and learning and scared and angry and sad and just so sorry. I am thinking of you Mr. Posey and all your black brothers and sisters. And I just love you. I wish you were here to help us, to help me and Chris and our boys and give us your wisdom and sing over us and pray over us. And I’m just so sorry I couldn’t understand but I do a little more now….I just pray these are good words that tell your good, good story…

Hard work

I’m tired. I haven’t written in a while. Haven’t really exercised in a while, or risen early to spend time alone in a quiet house with my thoughts or my God. I’ve eaten too much sugar and haven’t stretched my crooked back in a yoga class… but boy, have I exercised my mind. I’ve been doing some really hard work. Therapy and reading will do that for your brain. 

As I sat (online) with my therapist this week and explored the pain of my past, I told her I was just tired. The thoughts we resurfaced made me feel yuck and they were hard, but my brain was tired of holding on to them and it was time to let go. She encouraged me to write about our time so here it is. 

During session, I saw powerful images as we used a practice called EMDR, a technique which allows the brain to remember and let go of what it’s held onto for so long.

I saw a knife cutting the umbilical cords of my 3 boys, the ones I like to keep close and I might add, control. Especially the oldest. He was the sickest and bonds are formed when you rock sick babies. Bonds that may be too strong and need loosening, maybe even severing.

I saw all the years of my dad’s illness, and me trying to save him, in my twenties and thirties, again the control and misplaced bonds and roles. I remembered my younger self trying to control outcomes that didn’t belong to me. 

Then, thankfully, I saw me and my Jesus sitting and watching a movie, the movie of my boys’ life. It was nice to just watch and be available if needed, but to let the Savior write and play the movie as he wished. I was able to watch with Him and not direct every next move. 

How nice that is, to not direct the next move, but to be surprised by what He has in store for them and for me and for others. Surprise, it’s my word for the year. I wonder what all it will entail. Surprise can only come with not knowing though. Am I willing to not know? That’s where I get stuck a lot.  Not knowing is where God and I wrestle. 

Not knowing has taken shape in my life with health concerns for some reason. These all surfaced in my mind during the EMDR session like popcorn… My dad’s illnesses when I was a little girl and then a college student, lastly as a young mom. Never knowing if he would make it, if he would come home or play ball in the yard with us again. Then my first born’s chronic sickness when he couldn’t eat and had a crooked foot and tilted head. Seizures and possible surgery and a feeding tube kept us on edge. And even now some health concerns that haven’t been resolved. And lastly, my own health crisis after the last baby came. He gasped for breath every night, there was more talk of surgery and new doctors, then dad was dying and then we moved homes. 200 blood tests and 2 MRIs with no results. No one knew why I was dizzy and couldn’t remember words and would drop things all while barely getting out of bed…. We discovered my hormones and adrenals had shut down from all the unknowing, all the trying to make things better so I could feel safe in the world and in my skin. Hypervigilance my therapist called it: an enhanced state of sensory activity accompanied by exaggerated intensity. It may bring about increased anxiety that leads to exhaustion. The brain is always at work, scanning for the next problem or a way out. The brain, trying to manage the unknown, instability in the world…

Things seem to be calming down though. Through EMDR, good talk  therapy, reading, yoga, long walks, time in scripture and journaling I’ve noticed my mind more at ease lately.  I don’t yell as much, I am able to be more present, and curious about what I’m feeling instead of afraid of my thoughts…

But the unknown, we are working on our relationship. I think we need to be at peace with each other, having an understanding that we are both held by God. The unknown has no authority over me and I cannot control any outcome as I don’t weld that much power, so we can sit side by side without me crumbling or fighting or fixing….

Surprise is tucked inside the unknown and you can’t have one without the other. 

Trust allows the unknown to take its shape and write the stories in the world that so badly need to be written. Trust lets God be God and lets me take my rightful place as the excited observer. Trust also lets my brain rest  and release more and more of what it’s held onto to protect me. 

So be it. That’s what I’m telling myself these days. My therapist asked me to find a mantra  that brings me back and centers things when my claws of control resurface. So be it. Let God do what he wants to do in the life of my boys and in my health and in this world. And let pain and brokenness come and complete their perfect work because suffering brings us to our knees and closer to completion.  

The beautiful stories He writes don’t need an editor and I’m not really fit for the job and I really don’t know or want that burden. So be it. I pray I can watch with Him all he wants to unfold and only step in if he directs me….

So thank you to my therapist for pushing me and never judging me in these dark spaces. Thank you to my brain for all your hard work these years. You are a problem solver and so resourceful. Thank you to my body for holding out as long as you did and for showing up and wanting the right, safe result. Thank you to my God who made our bodies and brains to heal. Thank you to that part of me that controls to keep everyone safe. You can take a rest now and let God write the stories. He is better at it anyway…..

Re-Post: Redemption

I am re-posting in honor of trauma awareness month:

I saw something really beautiful happen today. An old, hurt place in my heart was brought back to life and I heard God whisper, “I can redeem all things.” I sit down most Wednesdays to write, and I knew he wanted me to write about redemption, to be redeemed.

To Redeem: to gain or regain possession of something in exchange for payment, to fulfill or carry out a promise, to compensate for the bad aspects of something, to buy back or recover, to obtain the release of or restoration of

Redemption is not just a saving from sin. It’s Christ going back to those places that were destroyed or wounded and regaining possession of them, recovering and restoring them.

I have these college buddies who have an amazing house flipping business. The wife sent me before pictures of a home they renovated. It had trash in every room that was four feet deep. They went in with masks and bags and began their redemptive work. Several dumpsters were parked out front to collect all the garbage. I was able to physically see the finished home one afternoon. It was such a peaceful home, with a beautiful front window that shown light through the whole house. My friend told me the window was original to the home. Most everything else had to be reconstructed but the window stayed. I sent her a message stating that their business was like the business of Christ, restoring things, redeeming things so the light can shine through.

When thinking on redemption today, I remembered Rahab. We find her story in Joshua 2. It is a fascinating story, one worth your time to read. Rahab is a prostitute living in the city walls of Jerico. Jerico is on the route of the Israelites path to the Promised Land. The Israelites are wanting to know about the enemy in the land ahead of them, so they send 2 spies to check things out. These 2 spies gather information from Rahab. She puts her life in danger by hiding them, giving them information, and lying to the authorities about their whereabouts. We later see that because of her courage, she and her family are spared in battle. The great story of redemption here is in Rahab’s legacy. We find in Matthew 1:5 that Rahab’s courage spared God’s people and she married and became the great grandmother of King David. We know our Redeemer, Jesus, came from the lineage of King David.

So we see that out of a woman, who entertained many dark things, came redemption.

In reading Rahab’s story, I realized that her home and the Jordan River were both on the path to the Israelite’s Promised Land.

Commentaries state that the Jordan River has very swampy conditions, 27 rapids, intense heat, and wild animals causing it to have no traffic. The Jordan was up to ½ mile wide in some areas and from 5-10 feet deep during flood stage, when the Israelites needed to cross. Joshua 3 tells the story of God parting the waters so the Israelites can pass through.

So we see that out of a river, full of dark things, came redemption.

As I think on the Jordan River, I imagine it was a wild, overlooked, and mostly avoided place. Maybe a little like Rahab’s home?

Can I compare Rahab to the Jordan River for a minute? I know that she was probably avoided (except by broken men), lonely, and overlooked because of her occupation. The Jordan had no visiters and was avoided because of it’s muddy conditions, heat and wild animals. Do you see it? What irony? God used a broken, worn out woman to rescue his chosen people and prepare the way for his son. God used a swampy, uninhabitable river as passage for his children and to baptize his precious son in before he sent him into ministry. God redeems things, people and places that no one else wants to use.

No one would place a perfect, royal baby in a dirty barn, but God did.

No one would choose a murderer to spread his precious gospel across the world, but God did.

No one would birth his chosen people through a barren woman and her old husband, but God did.

No one would sit and have dinner with the dirty, shame-filled sinners but God did.

No one would get baptized in dirty, muddy, insect and gator filled water, but God did.

No one would use a prostitute to bring forth a king, but God did.

No one…But God.

God is in the business of redeeming things. He redeemed this wild river to save his people. He redeemed this broken woman to save his people. He will redeem anything to save his people.

Rahab and the Jordan River were both on the path to the Israelites freedom, the Promised Land. They were both on the path that led to the Messiah, the Redeemer.

What wild, broken, lonely place is on the path to your Promised Land? Your freedom? Your Redemption?

What does God want to redeem in you? He can redeem anything. I can see it in my own life. Places I thought were too far gone, that would never change. Places that were too dark, too overlooked. He looked right into them and breathed life. He rescued them, redeemed them.

Psalm 107 is a hymn of redemption.

Psalm 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story- those he redeemed from the hands of the foe.”

Here is what I saw today in Psalms 107:

The actions/response of God’s children                               The actions/response of God

They were wandering in the wastelands He gathered them from distant lands
They could not settle down He settled them
They were hungry and thirsty, losing their life He satisfied their hunger and thirst
They cried out to God He delivered them from their distress
They sat in darkness, prisoners in chains He brought them out of darkness

and broke their chains

They were tossed by the sea He stilled the storm to a whisper
They cried out He answered them in their distress
They were broken He turned parched ground into flowing springs

Psalm 107:43 “Ponder the loving deeds of the Lord.”

He is whispering, “I can redeem all things.”

Heaven’s Wind

“It’s like wind from heaven is here!” my 9 year old-Ben shouted from the deck last week.  “Mom, you have to come out here, it’s heaven’s wind!” He was right. It was the purest, coolest breeze in the midst of a perfect blue sky. I  was refreshed to breathe in something deeply that was so clean and calming regardless of the chaotic and sickly state of the world. 

On a walk this morning, I thought of this moment and wondered, Is it possible to feel heaven’s wind in the midst of a pandemic? Can you experience peace and breathe deep when everything seems uneasy and bound up? Paul says I should be anxious for nothing but where is God? How much longer will this last?  Big questions are being asked and faith has been stretched these last few months.

Coming off of a strange Easter that wasn’t what I’d hoped for, it has been so easy to see what is wrong here on earth. Yet my little guy was able to encounter something good, something better than good. He sensed heaven in what seems like a bit of hell. 

Despite what is hard right now, I do believe good, God things are happening all around us. Heaven’s wind is still blowing.  I’ve been reading through the Old Testament lately and  I just keep seeing heaven’s wind, God’s goodness, on every page. 

I’ve been struck by these stories and testimonies of God’s faithfulness and steadfast nature, his pursuit of those he loves and his provision for these Israelite children of his. He just keeps showing up, even in the midst of their hard story. There are some lessons that I’m holding on to, that assure me of heaven’s wind today, that help me keep breathing deep when my lungs feel constricted and my belly gets tight.  

1. Nothing can stop His plans: “Chisel out two stone tablets like the first ones. I will write on them the same words that were on the tablets you smashed.” Exodus 34:1 

There were two sets of ten commandments, both written by the finger of God. Moses destroyed the first set in anger when he saw the sin of the Israelites as he came down the mountain. You see, God writes our story with his finger and we cannot destroy or undo what He has planned… and neither can COVID-19… or our impatience, or our angry words or apathy during this time. We do not have that much power. He will accomplish all he wants to because his wind is always blowing. 

2. He wants to use all who are available and all of our story: “So the two men set out and came to the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there that night.” Joshua 2:1

It was not unusual for Rahab to have strange men in her home. God knew Rahab’s profession was the perfect cover for the Israelite spies who needed somewhere to hide. Rahab knew of the Israelites’ God and believed in His power. She was available to serve and God used the reputation she held as an entertainer of men to preserve his plan. If we will say yes, He will  use us right now with all that we bring to the table. That is heaven’s wind, the goodness and kindness of God for all who are available. He wastes nothing, even the hard parts of our story. 

3. Sometimes He leaves things behind: “These are the nations the Lord left in the land...to test the Israelites…to teach them warfare…the Philistines.” Judges 3:1-6 

The Philistines were left in the land…on purpose…to teach something. This enemy who was left behind by God, led to the great story of David and Goliath. David, the 12 year old boy who knew his God slayed the bear and the lion for him and knew his God would slay a giant Goliath for him. The giant was left behind on purpose to teach something, to grow David’s faith and ultimately glorify God…the slaying of the left behind giant led to David’s place in the palace.

God leaves things behind. Could he have left behind COVID-19 on purpose? To teach us warfare, to strengthen our muscles, to grow our faith? Are there hard parts in our stories, like Rahab, that still trip us up? Have we smashed or wrecked relationships or opportunities like Moses? All of this leaves room for his wind to blow and refresh us…

I’ve needed refreshing in these weird days where I want to be alone but then need to hold my children close. When I’m bored but never have time to do anything. When I’m sad but grateful and afraid but rested. It’s all been very confusing. Sometimes I feel like I have no direction, like I’m floundering, wondering what if my efforts are no good? What if I’m just no good? What if I’m wrong, doing it all wrong? What if it never gets better? What if it doesn’t matter or turn out like I want? What if I’m missing something and then I don’t matter or turn out like He wants. 

When these questions come,  the heaviness sets in. I can feel it in my chest and shoulders..it surprises me, this heaviness, it has no warning, no rsvp…

but then if I pause, find a quiet space and remember, take a breath, there it is…heaven’s wind…

Then Ben runs out on the deck and reminds me…

Then the pages of Deuteronomy and Acts tell me…the boundary lines are chosen for me just as they were for the nomad Israelites that wandered for so long. He chose the portion of land just for them, the place where they would find rest on all sides…

His wind and his word remind me that nothing can stop his plans, that he will use me and my story if I’m available and he leaves some hard things behind to draw me closer…that the boundary lines fall for me in pleasant places…

And then I can breathe, then the peaceful cool wind washes over me…

From the ground up

From the ground up…I heard it this morning upon waking, a thought I knew was not my own.

From the ground up.

Today, good Friday. The day He was placed in the ground. The day of death. 

The time has come for the Son of Man to enter His glory and God will be glorified because of Him.” John 13:31. 

The time has come…Glory began with His death. Death made God brighter. From the ground up. 

You made us from dust and to dust we shall return. From the ground up. 

Spring is here, new life blooming. A rest from winter when all has been buried and stalled. From the ground up. 

Renewing, restoring, redeeming.  All begins below the dark, quiet earth. From the ground up. 

Could it be with all this pain in the world and in our hearts that you are creating something new? 

Could it be that the end of all we know and understand and count on could bring our salvation? 

Could it be that we had to drop to our knees, get low to the floor to find what we have always wanted? 

Could it be you are rebuilding us from the ground up? 

Today, Good Friday, this day of death, feels more real than ever before. More real because grief and loss seem more like neighbors now. 

The time has come…your death brought the most glory, God’s glory. Could our death bring you glory too? Could you resurrect us too from the ground up? 

What happened, Sweet Jesus, in the center of the earth, on that Saturday between Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday? What happened as all was quiet, waiting and scared…as all hope was lost…and you stayed in the ground for what felt like too long?

This feels like too long, Savior…but we wait and we hope. We can’t wait for Sunday…because from the ground you arose with victory in your hands…and death brought glory…

Yet, we will wait for You…for your promise and your plan, for your rescue and just for you…we wait just for you…from the ground up.