Run To Be Shade

I love to run! I know, I’m one of those people. But, I really do love it. Not because it comes super easy, but because I’ve learned how. I started running when I joined my high school cross country team. In the beginning, I hated it. But, as I learned how and got stronger, I eventually began to love it. There’s absolutely nothing that compares to a runners high. So much about running translates into my walk with Jesus too. Anyone can run. And, anyone can run a hill. But, the ones who are steady on the uphills are the ones who pick up their feet, pump their arms and dig in on the way up. This is painful to admit, but my uphill season right now is choosing to love others. Real love. As in Jesus love. Not the fake, Sunday morning “look like we love each other” love. I’m talking about the kind of love that responds lovingly even when my son is throwing a massive fit. Or when someone doesn’t act or respond the way I want them to. Or my plans for life don’t play out the way I envisioned them. Or someone else’s poor choices start affecting my life. Meaning: acting and responding in love in the imperfect moments of life. Romans 12:9, “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them” This verse stings. Because, if I’m really honest with myself, my struggle to love others is hindered by me. My needs, my wants, my rights. And this me-centeredness can’t reside in the life of a believer. So when life is hard and children throw...

When Your Deepest Pain and Purpose Collide

We want to change the world and do something big. We want to know our lives, pain, and tears on this earth matter. Searching for our purpose, we read books, say thousands of prayers, and beg God to answer the question: “What in the world are we here for?” We get glimpses, but it still looks hazy. We see other people doing great things and wonder if they have some secret hotline to heaven we know nothing about. I read this scripture a few weeks ago and I’m still digging for all the treasures found here. Psalms 126:5-6  They who sow in tears shall reap with joyful singing. He goes back and forth weeping, carrying his bag of seed {for planting}, will indeed come again with a shout of joy, bringing sheaves with him. Oh friend, we have made this way more difficult than it needed to be. And way bigger in our minds than it needed to be. Our culture tells us that our purpose has to be this “big thing” we must strive for, when God is saying, “It’s right in front of you. Look at those around you who are in need.”  What I’ve discovered about people who have done great things is that it always started with small things done with great love. (Mother Teresa). There is a quote that says, “Show me a man’s wounds and I’ll show you his purpose.”  Think of your deepest pain: the things in your life which have hurt you and cut you so deeply that they just about did you in. Now, ask yourself these questions: Who is out...

A Loopty-loop Life

My daughter, the third child and last born of our family, leaned her back against the measuring stick. Her head was several centimeters into the green area of the line. I couldn’t believe it. She could go on the rollercoaster ride. I could go on the rollercoaster ride! We stepped into line, and my heart raced with excitement. This would be the first time I rode a rollercoaster ride complete with loopty-loops since my first child was born over twelve years ago. The line went quickly, and several minutes later we stepped up to the closed gate as we watched the people in front of us board the rollercoaster seats. They strapped in, and I explained to my daughter about the seat belts and the overhead guard that would lock around us. Then I watched my sons standing with their dad in the line to the right of us. They would be sitting in front of us on the rollercoaster. Here we were: a family of five about to experience something together that we have never done before. I used to watch other people get onto rides. With a baby at my hip and toddlers running around my feet, the days of independent movements seemed to be over. But they weren’t. I stood with three kids that my husband and I had fed, changed, clothed and cared for over the years. And they stood tall and independent like olive shoots. “Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table” (Psalm 128.3 NIV) (emphasis added). Olive shoots grow...

Breathe Mama, Just Breathe

I See You, Mama You are work so hard. I see you. Some of you are working in the home, and some out of the home. All of you invest so much of yourself into your family. There is little time for rest because you are caring so diligently for those around you. I see you. You are always prepared with band-aids, snacks, tissues, and hugs. Your words breathe life and love into the little souls clamoring for your attention. While a nap sounds wonderful, you choose to read a book one more time through weary eyes. You long for your own space, yet your arms ache to hold your little loves. I see you. Breathe, Mama I can hear the worry in your voice. You question if you are doing okay. Yes, I know you second guess your decisions and the way you interacted with them not too long ago. The hard situations, those tricky conversations cause you to wonder if you are up to this task of raising another human. Motherhood seems to be a continuing tug-o-war of wanting a few minutes alone and wanting to hold them close. I want you to know, Mama, you are doing okay. Take a deep breath: a deep, cleansing breath. You deserve those few moments alone, a few minutes of quiet, a bit of rest. Breathe, Mama. That hard conversation you were willing to enter? It made a difference. The decision you made to love fiercely in that hard situation? You made a bigger impact than you know. You Know There’s A Bigger Picture Train up a child in the...

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...

Under Attack?

This week, I have been thinking a lot about “The Battle.” I’m not sure that Christians take Satan’s attack on us seriously. The Bible refers to him as a prowling lion, looking for someone to devour. I recently discovered some interesting things about how lions hunt. Today, I want to share something that especially caught my attention, perhaps because this is something I can personally identify with…. Antelopes, while physically fast, are mentally not quite so sprightly and pay perhaps too little attention to learning from their mistakes. Sound like anyone you know? Sure does sound like me. In some areas, I am consistently strong and victorious, but in others…not so much. I read about a group of Thomson’s gazelles crossing a patch of thick bush in order to drink. That particular patch of bush was bristling with lions who instantly grabbed and ate one of the gazelles. The rest of the gazelles scattered to safety, but over the next few hours the same group of gazelles, having apparently forgotten the recent murder of one of their companions, tried not once, but twice, more to get to the water using the SAME route…with predictable results. Oh my goodness! How many times do I walk right into Satan’s traps? Much like those poor gazelles, I forget all too quickly that my enemy is lying in wait. Scripture warns us, even commands us, what to avoid. We all have that one sin that we love: that one thing that we don’t want to let go of. If we let our guard down, Satan doesn’t have to put forth much effort to ensnare us … he simply lures...

It’s Time to Move On

Sometimes we think we’re done. It’s time to move on, or so we believe. We’re ready to be done with a season because we’re exhausted or we see a better offer. Things aren’t going well, or things are going exceptionally well. For whatever reason, we assess (or rationalize) that God is prompting us to take a step away from where we are and move on to something else. Especially if it takes time for us to adjust to the idea of moving on, it’s hard when God says, “Wait just a minute.” Jesus did it to Simon in Luke 5. Simon and other fishermen had been trying to catch fish all night. They were done. In fact, they were washing their nets, which wasn’t a simple task. They definitely did not want to dirty them again and restart the clean-up process. It’s like having everything wrapped up for the day, all accounts reconciled, notes written, reports submitted, electronics shut down, doors locked, then someone asking you to open up and get everything started again. Only Jesus didn’t ask. He stepped into the boat, began teaching, and told Simon to fish. Simon felt the need to report to Jesus what a waste of time fishing would be based on what was going on. I can hear our similar responses: “But God, these people just don’t respect me any longer. In fact, I’m not sure if they ever liked me. Don’t ask me to stay. It’s just not going to work.” “I’ve done everything you’ve asked me to do. I finally find myself wrapping everything up. It seems like it’s time...

Jesus In The Margins

In Matthew 25 Jesus says, “As you have done to the least of these, you have done unto me.” He specifically calls out those who are sick, in prison, hungry, thirsty, naked, the stranger in the land, and so on. He was talking about those people that live in the margins of society. The margins of society is the fictional place that we keep people that live out of the socially accepted norm, the ones that are overlooked, pushed away even. As Christians our hearts should seek to go after the people marginalized by society instead of pushing even more people into those margins. The people in the margins include, the homeless, the poor, the prisoners, the immigrants (illegal & legal), the old, the sick, prostitutes (although this has improved with the human trafficking movement), addicts…basically the people we would RATHER NOT SEE. Instead of going after these people, Christians have actually forced a couple more people groups “into the margins.” Labeling them, homosexuals, other religious groups (especially muslims), women that have had abortions, and more that I am missing. It makes my heart ache to know that the margins exist… and it breaks my heart to know that the church is continually drawing lines that make the margins even bigger! We have become desensitized to the value of human life. We see it everyday. Look at the way people treat those that work in the service industry. It is perfectly acceptable to never make eye contact with the people that serve you food in a restaurant. I got to travel alone recently and I sat in the airport...

The Widow Lamp of the Journey

(photo credit) Each year on the first Sunday in March, the Iditarod Trail Committee lights a small gas lantern and hangs it from the Burled Arch. Called the Widow’s Lamp, it remains lit until the last musher is off the Iditarod trail. The extinguishing of the lamp by the final musher signals the official end of the race. (https://iditarodoutsider.wordpress.com/tag/widows-lamp/) Life is full of journeys. Physically, emotionally, or mentally we all experience periods that require endurance, patience, and growth.  The tendency to rush a process that refuses our advances and takes its natural time to develop, often unfolding longer than we expect or hope, is familiar to most of us. For some, the start and finish of the journey is perhaps the toughest. For others, the long stretch in between,  feeling alone on the trail, exhausted, with no real sign of advancement, is the most difficult stage. Seasons of transition or waiting can be a big part of a journey where there is little light or knowledge of what is to come. Every winter in Willow, Alaska, dog sled teams start the beginning of March on the toughest marathon trail with whiteout conditions and blizzard temperatures. It is not unusual for mushers (dog sled drivers) and their dogs to push through inky Alaskan blackness, unable to see clearly what lies ahead. Yet, on the final stretch of unforgiving ice after days of remarkable journey, competitors realize the finish line is attainable with the vision of one small hanging lantern: a symbol of completion. I imagine for the musher and his team, sight of the widow’s lamp is an unparalleled prize...

Blessings Don’t Always Feel Good

We were sitting in Applebee’s when he said it. It was over steak, potatoes and salad with too much ranch dressing. “My cancer saved me, Holly.” That was the last thing I expected to come from my father’s mouth. The cancer had plagued him, kept him awake in the middle of the night due to debilitating pain and intense fear. The cancer  had robbed him of his physical health and made him look like a concentration camp victim. (he always joked he was trying out for the next Holocaust film) How in the world had cancer saved him? He continued, “Before I got cancer, I was so consumed with me. There were things I was holding onto that I would not fully give to God, until the cancer. I am at a place with God now like I’ve never been. I have peace and feel Him with me like never before.”  That day as I sat looking at him, I saw a different man before me. He didn’t look the same — his outer appearance was fading — but his inner spirit that dwelt with Christ was gleaming. Oh friends, we look at blessings so incorrectly sometimes. We always equate them with good health, prosperity, and warm, fuzzy feelings. We say, “I had a blessed Christmas” because we got a lot of things and gorged on yummy food. True, these are blessings, but what about the person in the hospital whose body is wracked in pain and feels alone? Are they not blessed? I was studying the word blessed today and the Greek meaning. When Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor...