He Knows My Name

But now, this is what the Lord says—     he who created you, Jacob,     he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;     I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1, NIV) For many years, I wondered if I mattered. I questioned my worth. I doubted I had value or a purpose. Certainly God had little use for me, even if He did love me. Lies spoken to me in my past rang loudly in my ears. They were sometimes deafening, sometimes silenced by truth. Yet, the lies remained. Even in the best moments, the lies swirled quietly in the back of my mind. I was made to feel I did not deserve the grand lives others were given. I did not believe I would measure up or accomplish much regardless of what I did. I would say I was determined, and I expertly developed a strong exterior, but inside I often crumbled. While I tackled goals with tenacity, I typically believed my efforts would amount to nothing, and I would fail. Failure became my identity. Have you come to a place of knowing there was more, of knowing there was something better, yet did not know how to obtain it? As I have dived into Scripture, I have found my answer. I have found answers to my questions, and the rebuttal for every lie. I have found how deeply God loves me. He knows me. He calls me by name. Jeremiah 1:5 says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,     before you were born I set you apart;     I...

Take the Next Best Step

The opportunity presented itself and I could not refuse. A risk, maybe, but it was one I was willing to take. This was an opportunity to draw closer to seeing dreams become a reality; a risk worth taking. I found myself on stage, sharing with others my heart, my story, and my encouragement for them. The negative voices that had coursed through my mind moments before were silenced. I had done what I was called to do. I had taken the next best step. One step led to a vision coming to fruition. Genesis 12:1-3 speaks of a man who chooses to take the next best step. The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation,     and I will bless you; I will make your name great,     and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you,     and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth     will be blessed through you.”    Abram, who will later be called Abraham, is not told where he is to go, only that he should go. Do you know what I truly love about this? Abram’s response. Verse 4 begins, “So Abram went.” No questions, no prayer meeting, no asking what his mother thought, he went. When God directs our steps, we do not need to question if we are headed in the right direction. We simply need to go. As Abram goes, God shows him a land that will be given to Abram’s offspring. Abram’s...

Boundaries of Love

I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them. (Hosea 11:4) You don’t love me! You don’t trust me! I remember the words, the phrases I shouted at my parents during my teen years. I was absolutely certain they would prefer me to stay inside the house, talk to no one, do nothing, go nowhere. Surely I had the cruelest parents on earth. The fact those words escaped my lips or that I had those thoughts is ridiculous now. Many years have passed and I know they were protecting me. A parent who sets boundaries for their child loves deeply. Having a child now, I understand. Even at her young age, she has questioned why she cannot do certain things. She asks why I will not let her go to various places. I explain that her father and I are doing our best to keep her safe while also letting her grow. I have to ask her to trust our decisions. A few temper tantrums are worth keeping her protected. She has more freedom, and more safety, within the boundaries we have drawn. I recently read a study which found that, when a playground is surrounded by a fence, children tend to use the entire playground area. Without a fence, children confine themselves to a particular area and will not use the space allotted to them. Fascinating isn’t it? While we may outwardly rebel against the fence, inwardly we are comforted by its presence. In the book...

Walk through the chaos and find the calm

  The line of cars extended beyond what we could see. We were not expecting so many people. In my head, everything worked out so perfectly. We would arrive, easily find a place to park, and walk inside. We would have enough time to settle in before the concert started. The picture in my head and what was happening did not match. We wound around streets, around parking lots. Every spot seemed to be taken, and time would not cease to wait for us. I had not considered simply entering the arena being such a challenge. Maybe it was the volume of vehicles, the long lines, or the unfamiliar campus, but my nerves became rattled. Friend, I promise I tried to take my thoughts captive and tame my tongue. I tried, and I failed. Taking an alternate route, we found a place to park much closer than we could have anticipated. Climbing the stairs of the arena, we entered and found an unoccupied row of chairs to sit. Away from the crowd, my husband, daughter, and I sat together. The large screens were enough for us. We were there to hear a phenomenal group, a group that drew us into the Father’s presence. Everything worked out better than the what my mind had imagined. God seemed to gently whisper, “If you will trust me in the chaos, I will lead you somewhere better.” We could not avoid the chaos; we simply had to keep going to find the calm awaiting us. A man named Lazarus fell ill. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus. How the women...

This year, I quit

And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. 11 Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. 12 Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” (Genesis 18:10b-12). Sarah laughs as God tells Abraham of a son that would be born to them in the coming year. Upon hearing God’s words of a promised heir, old Sarah laughs. The childbearing years had come and gone, yet God says she and Abraham, in their golden years, will conceive? How insane! How ludicrous! In her disbelief, she laughs. After denying she uttered a giggle, God confronts her. “Is anything too difficult for the Lord?” No, nothing is too difficult. The next year, Isaac lays nestled in Sarah’s arms. The promised son has come. Sarah quit laughing. 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75) Peter: bold and passionate Peter. He had been warned. Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus three different times. “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Peter proclaimed. Yet there you stood, Peter, hours later. The rooster was crowing and three times you had denied Jesus. Peter peered into the empty tomb. He later saw Jesus stand again in their midst. While out fishing, Peter began throwing off his clothes and jumping into the sea...

Finding peace

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer. (Psalm 94:19, NLT) Stockings no longer adorn the mantle, lights have been carefully folded away, and a sparkling tree no longer lights the room. The holidays have past, and a new year has been rung in. There is something peaceful about one chapter closing and another beginning. Last year’s chapter was a hard one. I found hope wavering and peace elusive. Last year rattled me in many ways: ways I was not prepared for. In the midst of it all was the reassuring hand of God, His steady hand, His unchanging love. Yet even now, I know the stress of those moments remains; the emotions long hidden away need to be faced. Like Peter, I longed to leap out of the boat, then quickly found myself sinking. Precious Peter may well be the disciple I most identify with. He is passionate, bold, and well-intentioned, and often speaks or acts before thinking. After a day of teaching and feeding five thousand, the disciples have pushed off from shore while Jesus retreats to pray. Before dawn, Jesus walks on the water, toward the boat. As Jesus approaches, the disciples are frightened, but Jesus tells them to “take heart.” Peter responds, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come come to you on the water.” Jesus beckons Peter to come (Matthew 14:22-29). The fierce winds are too distracting. As he begins to sink, Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!” Faithful Jesus takes hold of Peter’s hand, lifting Peter from under the water. “You of little faith, why did...

The splendor of God

Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory (Psalm 72:19) The sun began its slow ascent. Colors splashed across the sky in varying hues of red and yellow. It was magnificent. I stared at its beauty, entranced by the way the light pierced the morning’s darkness. A gentle breeze brushed my cheek; shadows fell away around me. I walked on with God’s splendor on glorious display. Beautiful colors filled the sky, and I stood mesmerized by its beauty. Among the breeze was the quiet whisper: You are more magnificent to me. Even more than the beauty of this sunrise is your beauty to me. Like the colors dancing across the sky, I created you. I know when you rise and when you sit. I know you fully and completely. I love you with an everlasting love. I walked on with God’s splendor on glorious display. As the world around me awakened, my spirit awoke as Truth spoke. More than the birds in the air, God cares for me. More than any creature roaming this earth, God cares for me. Just as He placed each star in the sky, He has placed me in this place, at this time. I walked on with God’s splendor on glorious display. The sun found its rightful place as I was reminded that I too have my place in this world. God created me on purpose, and for a purpose. As the sun provides light and warmth, I too have the power to bring light to darkened places. I have a strength, a beauty, a purpose...

Changed by mercy

Only seconds remained on the clock. Down by three points, I stood at the free throw line. Breathe: just breathe and follow coach’s directions. Sink the first shot, bank the second so one of our posts can grab the rebound for a jump shot. If this was executed properly, we would win by one point, securing the district championship. The first shot found its target. Swoosh. Purposefully missing the second was what worried me. My second shot bounced off the rim, and landed directly back into my hands. There was no time for thinking, for planning. I simply did what I had been coached to do: take a jump shot. Swoosh. Our freshman girls basketball team had just won district. High fives clapped around me, as I stood in amazement. My coach whooped and hollered as he jumped up and down on the sidelines. Perfect, young lady; that was perfect. I shook my head laughing. No one in the gym was thinking of a game earlier in the season, the game where I sunk a perfect jump shot on an inbound play, for the other team. Coach could have chosen to no longer rely on me, to not trust my reactions on the court. Yet, he saw what I sometimes couldn’t. As I told the story of the three point play to my daughter, my spirit whispered, “Isn’t that the way of mercy?” A mistake became an opportunity to learn and to grow. John 4 tells of a woman, a woman whose past is draped in mistakes. One failed relationship after another litters her past. When she comes face...

Thank you God, for everything

My daughter prayed a simple prayer as we gathered together with our family, “Thank you God for everything. Amen.” Her uncle quickly questioned, “Everything?” Her response was immediate, “God knows what I mean, He knows what is in my heart.” With that, we began our meal. Yet I wonder, what if we thanked God for everything? Yes,  for the moments of heartache, confusion, and hurt. For the moments causing our world to turn upside down, and for the moments turning us inside out, what if we thanked Him? Through the tears, through the anger, through the fears, what if we thanked Him? Thank you God, for everything. When grief threatens to consume me, thank you for being near. When confusion causes me to stumble, thank you for pointing the way. Thank you for knowing me fully, completely. Thank you for drawing near to me, for being faithful, and for being trustworthy. Thank you for speaking truth to the lies spoken to me. Thank you for loving me with an infinite, unconditional love, though others may reject me. Thank you for catching all the tears, for knowing the depths of my pain, for never leaving me alone. Thank you God, for everything. Thank you for the moments slamming me to my knees, leaving me humbled before you. Thank you for the beauty you have built from the ashes, for breathing life into the dying places. Thank you for allowing me to fail on my own in order to see my great, desperate need for you. Thank you for never failing, never quitting, though I run from you. Thank you for...

Salt and Light

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. 14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16, NIV) Heavy tears steadily streamed down the young girl’s face. Shoulders hunched forward as her eyes darted around the room. Strangers. Everyone there, they were all strangers to her. In the midst of young voices chattering and giggling, sat one, alone, afraid, and overcome by her tears. I walked over and introduced myself as I knelt beside her. She, the new girl, looked intensely at me. Help me. I am afraid. What do I do? I assured her she would be okay; this place, this school, would be wonderful. I asked her to turn and began pointing out four young girls who I knew would befriend her. Four smiles and waves met her as she turned. One of the smiling faces was my own child. I gave my daughter a glance I knew she would understand. This girl? This is the one you talk to. Do everything you can to make this day, this week, this year, easier and better for her. Be the...