Why God’s Plan for Friendships is Way Cooler

As I comb out her beautiful white hair she reminds me to take her hearing aids out before I spray it. She has family coming in from out-of-town so she wants to look her best. She asks me to find her favorite pearl necklace out of her jewelry box and as I hang the pearls around her neck my mind goes back over the last eleven years of our friendship. We have joked for years asking, “What did God think an eighty-two year old Italian Catholic would have in common with a thirty-one year old hillbilly Bible thumper? I met Landi eleven years ago when I moved in next door to her. When we first met she’d pop over unannounced, tap on the door, walk in and call out my name. I remember the first time it happened I was making my bed and thought to myself: “Did she really just walk in?” I was a little ruffled by it, I mean in our generation we just don’t do that. We have our privacy walls and fences for a reason, amen? I remember one day in particular when she came by, she asked, “Would you like to come over for a glass of my husband’s homemade wine?” I politely declined being I’m not a drinker and she looked up at me inquisitively asking, “Why is it because you’re Baptist?” I chuckled and right away I was taken in by her eager desire to get to know someone and knew I was going to love her. From that day on we have been inseparable. She always tells everyone, “We just took to one other.”...

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...

Faith sometimes requires cardboard boxes

Years ago, my sister-in-law said something that never escaped me. As we stood together talking in her kitchen, she recalled a statement about her loyalty to my brother when they got married. She said that she loved her husband so much she would live in a cardboard box if she had to, just as long as she was with him. What struck me most about her candid statement was the honesty with which she said it. I believed her, to the extent that I immediately envisioned their cardboard house exactly as their current house: filled with love. That statement of dedication spurred in me the same question of my faith. How far would I follow God? To what cardboard box of life would I follow him? Lysa Terkeurst, in her popular book The Best Yes, describes four bellwethers of change in making a decision based on the best yes: emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially. Reflecting on my sister-in-law’s statement, I envisioned these four areas as cardboard boxes, or places where God may be asking me to follow him into a more challenging place of loyal faith. Most times of growth are uncomfortable. When God is calling me to follow him to places that will require my full trust in him, it may look like: Physically: A new city? An exercise program that is intentional and one I finally adhere to? A mission trip? To deal with a hurtful habit? Emotionally: Counseling or therapy for an ongoing struggle in my life? The courage to look in the mirror and face what has been tugging at my elbow for the last ten...

I Almost Died the Summer of ’89

I almost died the summer of ’89. It was the summer after my sixth grade year. My parents moved our family to a new city. My stepfather had a job offer that might afford us the opportunity to stop living paycheck to paycheck. We packed up our Mercedes (I use the term loosely), the ’63 Mercedes of the sagging headliner, cracked vinyl seats, and missing air conditioning, and we moved to Redding, California. It was June. Redding in June is somewhat like I imagine hell to be. Not a temperate climate on the best of days, we arrived in the midst of a particularly hot spell. The temperature hovered between 115 and 120 degrees for a solid week with no reprieve granted during the evening hours. You must remember that this was in the days before cell phones and internet. When you moved from one city to another and you disconnected your phone line, there was no way to get ahold of you until you got to the other side. Somewhere between the packing of our luxury vehicle, the staple-gunning of the headliner to the roof, and the hot and miserable drive to our new destination, my stepfather’s job offer fell through. We arrived in Redding to the realization that we were jobless and homeless. The rental house we had secured would not accept our family when we had no sustainable income on the horizon. My parents did the logical thing. They moved us in to the KOA campground. This is where we would live while my stepfather searched for a job. We lived in a tent, at a...

Wrestling with Pride – It’s Nothing New

How does it happen? One day I am consciously aware of God at work in and through my life – and praising Him for it. The next day I’m questioning God’s plan and doing things my own way. There’s a wrestling match taking place in my life; will pride or humility win? (click to tweet). This battle with pride is nothing new. Way back in the Garden of Eden, Satan tempted Eve to doubt God’s goodness. Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3:1b, KJV A tricky question The crafty question gave Eve pause to consider. Maybe God was withholding something from her and Adam that would be good for them. It was true; God had given them permission to eat the fruit of any of the other trees in the garden, but why was the tree of knowledge of good and evil off limits? With the bait set, Satan slowly reeled her in, assuring Eve that what God said was not true. God merely didn’t want her and her husband to be “as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:5) As Eve considered Satan’s statement, she gazed at the fruit. It was beautiful and appeared to be ripe and delicious. Without getting her husband’s input, Eve made her choice – plucked the fruit and offered some to Adam. Adam and Eve chose to do things their own way. They rebelled against God. Their actions confirmed they thought they knew better than their Creator. A choice Before we’re too hard on Adam and Eve, don’t we do the same thing? We...

Go Ahead, Prune Me…

We are clearly not farmers.

We tried. We bought a peach tree, not for abundant August peaches, but for privacy. We come from the school of “plant a tree and sit back.”

We did.

That tree, for some reason, loves the Georgia red clay. She has flourished. She is after all a peach tree. Who knew?

You Can Go Your Own Way Or You Can Seek God’s Will

 And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. ~ 2 Corinthians 8:5 Have you ever tried to do things your own way? When the focus is on trying to do what you want instead of what God’s will is for the situation? Me too! Truth be told, I am somewhat of a “control freak.” There, I said it. Whew, I feel a little better now. You know you are a control freak when you will do whatever it takes to make sure that things are done “just right”–whether it is the dishes, the laundry, the project at work, or even your hair. The catch twenty-two with this though is that people around you like that you things get done and that they can count on you when the going gets tough, but it can also frustrate and tear down some of those same relationships, not to mention the fact that it keeps us focused on what “we” can do. When our focus is on what we can do, handle and get done then the weight of the burden rests completely on our shoulders. We start to feel the weight of all these things we’ve picked up along the way because we are get it done girls who like things done the “right way”. Each step we take throughout the day seems harder and heavier until we feel like we can’t take another single step. In our pursuit to do things our way we somehow managed to sidestep God. We left Him out and...

Why I Stopped Dating Jesus

I was in my early twenties. I would hear about those Bible thumpers that went to church every Sunday and it somewhat intrigued me but I also knew I was not one of them. First of all, I was not going to give up my cigarettes. Secondly, I was not going to stop cussing. And thirdly, when I would visit my dad’s Baptist church, it scared me. Dad would always lean over and say to me: “If you want to go the altar, I’ll go with you.” (He had this obsession with the altar like it was the only place you could meet Jesus.) I would shake my head no and pray that the preacher man was not standing at the door shaking hands after the service. And if he was, please God, let me him not see me. God never answered my prayer. Preacher man was always standing there with his smile and outstretched hand, and I would shake it, hoping to God he couldn’t read my mind, knowing the last sins I just committed. I remember walking outside the doors feeling free, like I could breathe again. That conviction stuff and dealing with your sin was heavy. I liked my relationship with God just the way it was. I liked Him, He liked me. We’d hang out once in a while, chat here and there, I’d ask for forgiveness on Easter and Christmas. Everything seemed to be working out just fine. Until everything was not fine. September eleventh happened. I was a young mother, married only a couple of years, struggling with depression, anxiety, and was having...

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...

why you should just be you & I should be me (because who are we kidding anyway?)

I grabbed a shopping basket and headed to the produce. Note: I grabbed a basket. I have no idea why, other than I had a brief lapse of identity – which led to this post. I’m a mom of 5. I haven’t used a grocery basket since college. In fact, once upon a time, I had two 2 year-olds and a new baby, and I finagled two carts – pushing/pulling with one cart for the baby in the car seat and another for actual groceries, with one two year-old in the front of each cart. Those grocery trips inevitably ended in tears and meltdowns. My tears and meltdowns, that is. So anyway, there I was, with a cute little grocery basket on my arm. And, I was wearing a white coat, a lovely, tailored-looking thing with big buttons. I should mention it is a hand-me-down, as I’d never spend money on a red juice stain waiting to happen. And, suddenly, I feel quite put together and professional – and, well, not like a mom of 5. But. Then, I saw the kids’ favorite snacks on sale for 3 for $5.00. I just couldn’t help myself, shoving them all in the basket. Then, my heart warmed at the popcorn, after all, it was a cold day and we could have a family movie night. (Always more ideal and smiley in my mind’s eye.) And then, well, Maggie just loves bagels in the morning, which called for cream cheese as well. And, Samuel, yeah, he’s had  rough spell and strawberries always make his day. Not to mention, I’d need to feed the tribe...