Ditch the Labels

        You are irreplaceable. One in a hundred billion. * The only you. Unique in design. “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth.” Psalm 139:13-15 (NASB)   Designed by the Master Designer. Embroidered by God who lovingly chose each color. Your exclusive design and life experiences cannot be duplicated.   So let’s stop using labels to put people in groups.   A label only tells us one small part of who a person is. I’m an introvert but still different from every other introvert. I’m a white female but that doesn’t fully define who I am. I’m American but that doesn’t reveal my soul. Because I vote a certain way doesn’t mean I’m like all others who vote that way. To say someone is OCD, autistic, ugly or beautiful doesn’t tell me who he or she is. We are individuals. One of a kind souls wrapped in bodies unlike any other. Each of us is a wonderful miracle. Assigning you a label doesn’t mean I know you. To know each other we must communicate, listen, understand and love. We need to look for the exquisite colors He put in each soul. Some of us hide them well: we need to be willing to take as long as we need to see. Father, please help...

Behind The Makeup

Over the years I’ve been blessed to serve in ministry at the local church. Most of the time you hope and pray that what you are doing is making an impact, but truth be told you never fully know just what that impact is. A good friend of mine, Michelle Garrison, shared this with me a few weeks ago and I immediately knew that this was something that needed to be talked about with you as well. This is something that many of us wrestle with, as a matter of fact, it’s one of the things that I talk/write about more than anything else: Girlfriends, vulnerability and being real with each other. It’s not easy to do, that’s for sure, but something incredible happens when we start to get behind the makeup. I pray you are as encouraged by her words as I have been…she is not an author, speaker, or even someone that likes to be in the spotlight, she’s a real woman, doing real life and trying really hard to live out her faith and I just love that about Michelle. Her words are from the heart and I know that it will challenge you as much as it did me. As I assessed my face in the makeup mirror this morning, I was so thankful that I was able to hide my imperfections under the mask of makeup. The day before, I hung around the house and wore no makeup. It is amazing how good you feel when you look all put together. On that no makeup day, I wasn’t feeling at my best. Then, my thoughts...

An Invitation to Hop Off the Merry-Go-Round

I don’t know about you, but all too often I find myself trapped on the merry-go-round of life, seeing the world as a spinning blur. You, too?     Good morning! Today I want to take a few moments and encourage us all to bring the merry-go-round to a halt for a moment and look around us. But first, let me tell you what brought me to this point. I am currently reading a book entitled Roots & Sky: A Journey Home in Four Seasons by Christie Purifoy. In Roots & Sky, Purifoy chronicles the first year of the life of her family in a new-to-them home. There have been several passages from the book that have spoken intensely to my heart, and today I want to share one of them. “We fool ourselves if we believe that life is the tedium of our to-do lists broken up by occasional highs, like a baby’s homecoming, and occasional lows, like that baby’s first terrifying trip to the emergency room. Everyday life is utterly extravagant. It is morning glories we did not plant. It is four children we did nothing to deserve. It is moonlight and starlight, rainbow-colored leaves and autumn rains. It is the shelter of trees, the songs of birds, and the enduring sight of a farmhouse on a hill. It is more beautiful than it needs to be. It is more meaningful than we can begin to comprehend.” I will confess that quote hit me like a ton of bricks because I have a tendency to look at life as the tedium of my to-do list…everything running together,...

Prayer for Spring

Spring is really all about new beginnings. The new year is known for that, but those beginnings—to me, at least—are more about pushing through the hectic cheerfulness of Christmas and being granted relief from the chaotic frenzy. It’s dark and cold—physically, and sometimes emotionally. We’re drained and ready for something new, so we start talking about fresh starts. But this season, spring… it’s about emerging from the cold and stepping into the warmth. It’s not about what we’re coming from—although that makes the destination that much sweeter—but where we’re going, what we’re seeing. New growth. New life. Spring is a reminder that time comes and goes, seasons change, but there’s always a fresh start. It’s a reminder that change is beautiful. That there is hope. That no matter how tired and worn we get, we will find ourselves experiencing another time of growth. Thank You, Lord, for this truth. For the realization that nothing escapes Your notice. That nothing is too small or insignificant to be made beautiful. I’m grateful for the ways that You change us, for the ways in which You help us grow. For the tenacity You give us to push through dry ground—or arise in the midst of storms. I’m thankful that big things can come from small beginnings. I’m in awe of the potential that can bloom when I let myself grow in the light of Your love. I’m in love with the colors of new life: their intensity, their passion, their richness. With the flowers and big blue skies and sunshine. With the potential that seems to float on the breezes. Sure, sometimes...

Whining Words or Winning Words: You Choose

I use words every day. The words I write are carefully crafted. But sometimes the words I speak aren’t. They fly out of my mouth without much thought. They erupt like lava out of a volcano – spewing gunk all over and leaving a mess in their wake. I use them in an attempt to get my way. Whining, manipulating and nagging aren’t very attractive (click to tweet). Recently, as I’ve considered my speech, I have to admit I’ve used every one of these methods to tip the odds in my favor. I’ll let you in on a secret: they don’t work. In fact, they create a lot more problems than they solve. A jealous response You and I aren’t alone in our struggle. Remember Miriam? She was Moses’ older sister. Moses had been leading millions of Israelites toward the Promised Land when God’s Word shares an all-too-familiar scenario: And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married…And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? Hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it. Numbers 12:1a, 2 We do this same type of thing. Moses marriage to this woman wasn’t the issue. It seems Miriam and Aaron were just as vulnerable to jealousy as we tend to be. They were jealous of Moses’ leadership position and thought they were just as qualified to be in charge. I can almost hear the whine in Miriam’s voice and see the way she tried to manipulate the situation. God hears Be sure to notice who heard their critical conversation: the...

Looking for gratitude

Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 I drove down an Indiana highway recently, marveling at the crimsons and scarlets, the oranges and pinks and golds and yellows, the nearly-purple reds and the rich camel browns of the landscape. I almost couldn’t enjoy the magnificence because I knew it would end all too soon. With the next rain, the leaves would fall, withering and crumbling on the hard earth in preparation for winter. As the colors awakened a joy inside me, they also stirred up something I couldn’t ignore. Because the truth is I do not always feel grateful. What do you want to show me, Lord? Gratitude and beauty are tangled up together. As an artist, I am proud of my ability to observe my surroundings, to recognize God in the midst. I actively look for the Who behind the what, and because I see Him, my prayer life begins with gratitude. As I give thanks, I feel God lean nearer. I see Him more clearly. But what about those moments when gratitude isn’t so simple? When we’re facing loss, bottling up anger, frantically performing for the world, knowing that underneath the façade we’re a mess? What do we do then? Show me, Lord. I filled page after page of a gratitude journal with exquisite details the week I sat beside my mom’s deathbed. Desperate for the redeeming beauty. Desperate to find something to praise God for. But did I find it in the dust motes floating through the sunlight, the curves of shadows...

Comparing Yourself to Happily-Ever-After

People can present themselves and their lives any way they want on social media, but when we meet face to face, we see the reality. The problem is: we don’t always get to meet people face to face. Even if we do, if we have limited contact, we might still only get to see a glimpse: the moments the person chooses to wear a mask. Or, perhaps the person is being authentic but only with certain areas of his or her life. Of course, this comes as no surprise to any of us. We all know the potential distortions of social media. We all know that we shouldn’t compare our lives–with all the imperfections we’re so familiar with–to the mirage of perfection in someone else’s life. Yet we still do it. I recently saw a post that referred to the thrill of watching a fairy tale unfold in front of their eyes–referring, of course, to a string of posts on social media, not real life experiences and interactions. The truth is those who had everyday or even occasional contact with the so-called-fairytale-recipients knew the underneath-the-surface truth. The people involved aren’t bad…perhaps a bit deceptive at times, but I have the impression they are unknowingly deceiving themselves more than intentionally deceiving anyone else. The truth is the simple reality of a messy life, which is what we all have. We so long for the happily-ever-after that we forget what fairy tales, even in movies and books, involve. Think of your favorite fairy tale heroes and heroines and what they endured throughout their (fictional) lives. The reason we hope for and...

Facing Sudden Heartbreak

The arena was filled with praise as Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant led us in singing “Because He Lives.” Talk about memories! In an instant I was taken back over 40 years to the first time I heard this song, a brand new song written by Bill and Gloria Gaither. I was twenty years old and I was supposed to be newly married. But 3 weeks before our wedding, my fiancé told me he wasn’t sure he loved me and in fact he’d met this other girl and wasn’t sure which one he loved or if he even knew what love was. I was devastated. Three weeks away. All the plans were made. Invitations were out. The dress hung in my closet. We were hanging curtains at the little place we planned to live in after we got married. As I stood on the ladder, I heard him say, “I need to tell you something.” Soon my heart was in pieces. Three days later I was sobbing as all the plans that had been made were pulled apart one thread at a time till all that was left was broken dreams. I felt like I had no future anymore. All my future plans had involved being a wife (supposedly a pastor’s wife.) I felt like a boat adrift at sea. Then my sister invited me to go with her church to Falls Creek (a summer youth camp.) My healing began the night they introduced two new Gaither songs. The first one was “Because He Lives.” That song poured healing into my soul. Because He lives, I could face...

Your Day; Your Choice

Have you ever spent time with someone who saps the life right out of you? Whose entire focus is themselves and absolutely every problem they’ve encountered in their entire life? Is that person you? We all have down days: those times when we need to regroup and refocus on God’s goodness and all the blessings He’s provided. The sooner we choose to do this, the better our day will go. Proverbs 15:15 says, “For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast.” (NLT) In other words, if you focus on the negative, pretty soon that’s all you’ll see. But if you intentionally focus on and thank God for the positive, your heart and mind will zero in on that, until it’s like you’ve slipped into a perpetual party, or, as Proverbs says, a continual feast. Each day God has given me a bountiful feast to enjoy. I have a house over my head. I share this house with a wonderful husband and precious daughter. God has planted us in a caring, Christ centered,  growing church. Those extra pounds I gained over the holidays? They’re the result of an abundance of food and celebration. That back ache I often get when I sit in front of my computer? That’s the result of having a job. I could go on. So could you. Choosing to notice the feast God has provided doesn’t mean we can’t mourn tragedies or feel frustration and disappointment when challenges and setbacks come our way. But it does mean taking time to notice the good, even in our darkness, and...

The embodiment of hope

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13, NIV God is our source and strength. He is the bearer of hope. All true. But as I think about the lovely friends God has placed in my life, I’m discovering a correlation between friendship and hope. Friends, it occurs to me, are hope embodied. Hopefulness made flesh. Oh, sure, there are friendships that don’t add hope to your life. Sometimes you’re the one who has to do the lifting up, who helps carry the heavy burdens. Truthfully, it’s part of the give and take of relationship. Sometimes it’s hard, and occasionally it feels like work. But not when shared between yourself and someone else who takes the power and responsibility of friendship to heart. When you think about the friends who make you smile, who always believe in you, who have higher goals for you, expectations of you, and possess a certainty many levels beyond what you can summon for yourself—well, isn’t there sort of an effervescent hopefulness there? A joy that bubbles up from deep within your soul? A sense of wholeness because they “get” you—even if they don’t agree with you? A comforting rightness born from the knowledge that they’re a fixture in your life? I’m convinced that friends are gifts from God. And as I look around, I see so many people that didn’t just happen into my life. Sometimes there are coincidences, but more often there are deliberate arrangements. And I...