Vantage Point

Do you have a son? Ahhh, then, you know. Twelve years ago, my husband and I took home a little 7 pound baby boy of our own, with long, slender fingers and toes, and blushed skin that covered his body loosely, bunching up over the tiniest knees. How delicate was this little fella, and how our hearts were brimming with both joy and fear at the weight of responsibility. The coming weeks and months had me sleeping with one eye open, my ears inclined to hear every little movement and involuntary punch of his bony fist against the side of a ruffled blue bassinet. Before he was born, everyone told me about the connection between mama and son. At once, I understood. This child ravaged my heart, in the best way. Today, we are in the throes of middle school with this babe turned boy. Again, there’s tremendous joy, yet an equal measure of anxiousness and fear concerning his life. We wrestle with the dynamic of grace, expectations, and setting boundaries. You see, when children are young, it’s easy to create a sort of utopian existence to control their behavior or responses. I see parents obsessing over what school their children will attend and what teacher they will have. They seemingly pick their friends for them, as well as activities and sports. From what they eat to what they wear and the amount of television they watch, not to mention screen-time and even the church they attend, every part of their lives is micromanaged. To be fair, I believe that we all do this to some extent. The truth...

Our Heart’s Yes

Nearly nine months ago, I, along with 11 other women committed to journey together to a foreign country for a short-term mission trip. For most of us, this would be our first time in this country, and for me, my second time on an airplane ever, with the first being prior to September 11, 2001. Even so, in the midst of the nervousness and excitement of something that I considered wild and adventurous, we made our deposits and began training. We didn’t know what we were in for, but we had a vision for what our work would look like there, and with every session spent together, we felt more convinced of our direction. Until June. While many of us were assembling our passports and completing the tedious process of applying for visas, we became aware of a missionary couple in our network that was denied entry into the country. This was both shocking and unusual. Soon, we learned that our visas would likely be denied as well. Given this news, the next weeks few were complicated, filled with highs and lows, and lots of anxious waiting. We were sure that this was a test of our faith, and we remained hopeful that God would make a way when they seemed to be no way. Yet, as it stands today, we will not be going. I found it difficult to sleep during those weeks of waiting, as a number of scenarios flooded my mind. One night, as I was folding laundry at 1:00 a.m., I felt the presence of the Lord. This is what I heard… “You do not...

To Hear The Music

As silly as they seem, cartoons are a myriad of strangely relevant stories and plots consisting of heroes, rivals, and topics like revenge, anxiety, and even death. Even so, the way in which they are depicted is far from the life we know. One example is TV tropes, which are a figurative demonstration of a character being stunned or injured. For instance, when a character is hurt or taken by surprise, there’s a halo of circling birds above the character’s head. You might recall the sound of “cuckoo, cuckoo” when these little birds appear. Either way, I’ve felt like one of these characters as of late, with emotions, feelings, and perceptions circling and out of sorts. Graciously, in my time with Jesus, He is showing me how my response and posture in light of things I didn’t’ see comin’ are casting a shadow on my days. When I’m hit over the head with the unexpected, I am a self-confessed over-thinker. I assess the situation. I find out every single thing I can about it. I process. I want to feel better about it…get over it, and move on. Unwittingly, I cause myself a lot of undue stress and anxiousness, because I am not equipped to handle the weight of the heaviest blows of life. Yet, even when I turn to Jesus, I continue to feel the tremendous tension of what’s going on around me. Joy is lost. Faith is weakened. Fear is rampant. What I’m learning is that struggles are a digression from God’s purpose. What’s more is that the struggle itself is not as much of a threat...

Break The Agreement

Have you ever experienced a moment where all of your senses are heightened, as if there’s a supernatural awareness or panoramic perspective of all that’s going on around you? I’m in a moment like that now. After several days of hard rain, I’m curled up on the sofa, and the Spirit of Jesus is all around. Through the second story window, being pressed by a gusty morning wind, I see trees of the purest Spring green, heavy with moisture from the drenching rains of the night. My attention turns to a few curious little cardinals perched on our bird feeder, determined to take the last of the sunflower seeds wedged within the splintered wood. Suddenly, two little cats spring to their feet to take a peek, their tails curved in attention. I’m clutching a fresh cup of coffee: the steam touches my face, and my glasses turn foggy at the first sip. It’s quiet here, except for the squall of thoughts determined to cut through the silence. It’s a gift really…to have all of your thoughts seemingly gathered into one room. But don’t get me wrong. On any given day, there’s a team of feelings and emotions, perceptions, ideas, dreams, and scenarios that swell up against me. Today, it’s the comfort of God’s creation and the awakening of my senses that carries these thoughts into new light. In 2 Corinthians 10, verses 5 and 6, Paul encourages the church to “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and to take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” [NIV]. The Message...

Revealed and Concealed

It was early on a Saturday, and the sun, burning through the morning mist, was slow to rise. Truth…there wasn’t much rise in me either. Sleepily, I rolled over, back towards the light, and fell into a heavy sigh. It’s been my experience that even seasons of unrest gain energy and peace in the light of a new day. That’s why mornings, to me, are special. Light brings so much promise, hope & joy that I find myself walking from window to window in our home, chasing it. But, this day, I didn’t even want to get up. Somewhere in the night, I had been robbed, ravished by something…or so it seemed. For days after this, I pushed through, as we often do. Every now and then, when thoughts would catch up to me, I’d remember what I felt & notice that it was still there, amidst all of the busyness. When Monday came & kids were sent to school, I sat down in the quiet with Jesus, and found myself in the pages of Luke, chapter 18, about the rich young ruler. This is a story that I knew well, but my eyes kept circling back to this particular part of verse 23… ‘When he heard this, he became very sorrowful, for he was very rich.’ [esv] What Jesus told the ruler (to sell all of his possessions) was just about the last thing he thought he’d hear; and it made him sad. My spirit was jarred at this! The thought came to mind, ‘the man pitied himself, and you do, too.’ I sat, and I thought, and...

Show Up For The Fight!

“A great multitude [a huge force] has come against you from beyond the Dead Sea—there’s no time to waste…” [2 Chronicles 20:1-2] Having received this intelligence report, Jehoshaphat, King of Judah, was aware of the significance of the threat against his people. Conscious of his own frailty and the weight of his responsibility as leader, Jehoshaphat set himself to seek the Lord. [Pause] At first glance, it may appear that this account in 2 Chronicles is just another example of a leader putting their trust in the Lord in preparation for a battle. Yet, we’ll see that Jehoshaphat’s attitude under the weight of such a threat is worth paying attention to. First, we see his immediate devotion to the Lord in the word “seek” in verse 3. This word, which becomes a beautiful thread throughout King Jehoshaphat’s reign, means to discover God’s will in “worship.” While I consider Jehoshaphat’s posture in a moment of impending doom, I compare the gravity of this threat to my own life and the ones that I love. I think of a dear friend who has just been diagnosed with cancer, and the weeks and months of therapy and surgery to come. I think of another whose husband has lost his job. I recall the face of a precious sister who recently lost her baby and a conversation with another friend who is grieving the choices made by her daughter. I think of those who have been emotionally and physically abandoned. I consider those facing battles in secret. I contemplate my own struggles and how they take a toll on my mind and my...

Still Frame

{The Vision} I looked out to see sheets of green dipping into valleys where early morning shadows hovered over the moist earth, only to build up again into curved slopes where wind curled and crashed over the top. From my mind’s eye, the hills stretched up, each touching the horizon in sequence, continuing into an infinitely of wide-open space. Eyes closed, I’d take off running towards the skyline, tension in my arms and the wind at my back. {The Backstory} I spent most of my childhood, until age 13, on a single street in rural North Carolina. Summers were my favorite. I’d wake up early, pick out mismatched clothes from my beloved pickled oak cabinet, and hurry out in search of the morning. A pasture bordered one side of our house. The rusty barbed wire fence, overgrown with prairie grass, separated us from a few cattle, occasionally grazing. The pasture, though small, would not only become a backdrop for some of the first conversations I’d have with God, it would appear as a still frame on a reel of memories, long after my family moved away. God knew that certain events in my life would crush me. He knew that I’d believe things about myself that weren’t true: that I would compare myself to others. Was I enough? Was I too much? He knew that I would strive to please, and how heavy this self-made mantle would become…with anxiety, panic, and exhaustion. He knew that I would make decisions, albeit with good intentions, in order to gain control. He knew that others would betray me, and how many sleepless...

Tell It To My Heart

Remember that 1987 hit, the one by Taylor Dayne, ‘Tell It To My Heart?’ (I bet you’re looking it up now.) It’s like most other catchy 80’s tunes with a sticky chorus that’ll have you singing for days…or, in this case, decades. Anyway, I break into song in random ‘doings’ of the day, mostly when I’m alone. Recently, up to my elbows in dirty dishes, this was my little chant. It hit me. As of late, I’ve felt a real sense of losing in life. Just not dealing well, ya know? I typically deal with things in my head. I love ideas and information and putting lots of ‘stuff’ up there and reading and asking questions and seeking answers. And, I go to God. I really DO. But, my heart has been so, so heavy. Somewhere between the head and the heart, things just got spacey. It’s maddening. It came to a boil months ago. I had one of those hard conversations; you know, one of those ‘talks’ that are easy to put off, until you realize that they are inevitable. And it was GOOD. But it was HARD. And I was emotionally exposed. No amount of head knowledge or wisdom or experience can lift a heavy heart. I know this because I tried. Out of sheer determination, I TRIED. I still couldn’t be free. The heart. It’s like the emotional drum of the soul. Beat, beat, beating and longing and wishing and hoping and refusing to let go. I can decide in my head all day long NOT to be disappointed, hurt, or offended. But….Ohhhh my heart. I...

Right In Front Of Us

I’m notorious for placing things on tables and countertops only to forget where I’ve put them. When I ask my husband or one of the kids to help me look, they spot them right away (of course!) Often, whatever I was looking for was right in front of me… For as long as I can remember, I’ve had big passions and dreams. Yet, I’ve lived with hesitancy and a strong sense of reservation about them. Whether it’s fear of doing the wrong thing at the wrong time, or pursuing something selfishly, insecurity, or assuming that it’s not from God…over time, I’ve put those ideas and dreams to rest. With each passing year, particularly the last 3 years, I’ve noticed that the greatest passions of my life are more persistent than ever. As 2016 was beginning to close, around November-ish, I felt something stirring there…in that dream place where all of my wishes and hopes have been tucked away. One Sunday when I was sitting in church, this came to mind… “You’ve always had to be pushed.” It took me off guard a bit, but knowing myself, I accepted it as a thought from God concerning me. My response? “Well, I figured you’d push me when the time was right, God.” That day began a string of conversations and ponderings between God and I that eventually led me to Matthew 14. It begins soon after the meal for 5,000 was finished… Jesus tells the disciples to get in the boat and begin moving over to the other side (of the sea of Galilee). Jesus then went to pray alone. “Meanwhile,...

Out Of The Running

It’s been a year, and I vividly recall the light-hearted conversation that turned to dreaming and everything from gluten-free foods to writing and fashion. There we sat, two thirty-somethings, coffee in hand at Starbucks. My friend, Sarah B. —she’s something. She is courageous and funny and easy to enjoy. Yet, what seemed to wrap up our chat that day was this: as we discussed the dynamic among women — ambition, insecurity, feeling unimportant—all the feels — she shared something with me. In the moment, when plagued by jealously, insecurity, or the temptation to compete or compare, a friend of Sarah’s speaks this declaration out loud—she lifts up her hand (kind of like a witness in court…think: I solemnly swear ;)) and says, “I take myself out of the running for…” I couldn’t have imagined how this phrase, so simple, would weave itself into conversations and temptations over the coming months. God was up to some stitching, and the degree of detail would leave my heart feeling a little pricked. Most of us are familiar with some form of the following scripture, taken from Hebrews 12, which refers to a long-distance race, with Jesus as our example… “…to strip off every unnecessary weight and the sin which so easily and cleverly entangles us, let us run with endurance and active persistence the race that is set before us [looking away from all that will distract us and] focusing our eyes on Jesus…” {verses 1,2 AMP} The Message version puts in plainly— “study how Jesus did it…how he entered into this all-out match against sin, and finished!” Friends, this is what...