What do you do when you fall?

I lacked grace. Mercy was nowhere in sight. Instead, I chose to be headstrong, stubborn, and consumed with my own judgements. I was right, my friend knew it, and I certainly knew. In the heat of the moment, I was hell bent on making sure my thoughts were heard. Truth needed to be spoken, right? Yet, I sounded like nothing more than a clanging cymbal because I lacked love (1 Corinthians 13:1). As I focused solely on being right, I lost sight of the person standing before me. I diminished her situation, her struggle. I diminished her as I hurled my words at her. Negating the reason she had approached me, the reason the conversation began, I became wrapped in my own knowledge and insights. I puffed myself up to the point I nearly imploded. There she sat in front of me, wincing as I rubbed salt into her already wounded heart. I can prophecy and move mountains with my faith, but am nothing without love (1 Corinthians 13:2). While nearly breaking my arm patting myself on the back with how accurate my rebuttal was, I finally paused to look at my friend. Her head hung down. Her shoulders hunched forward as a gentle stream of tears flowed down her cheeks. What had I done? How could I have been so callous, so prideful? Was being right more important than helping her to navigate the situation she faced? Yes, she had made a poor decision, but now, so had I. Love protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:7), but my words had lacked love. I had fallen hard,...

It’s Not Up to You

It was my first real, paid, speaking engagement. A church halfway across the country had invited me, Jennifer Slattery, Midwestern mom of one, to be their keynote speaker. I was more than intimidated. I was terrified, to the point my stomach felt as if army ants, butterflies, and nasty spiders had declared war within me. Not wanting to reveal the extent of my ignorance and ineptitude, I spent hours crafting and rehearsing my speech and fine-tuning my Power Point. Then the day came. I’d spent so much time preparing and rehearsing I could give my speech backwards. In my sleep. I’d become so confident in my abilities, in fact… God needed to do some confidence-stripping. It started with a casual conversation between me and the educational minister. “What do you plan to talk about?” This struck me as odd, for I’d already sent him my outline. But perhaps he’d forgotten, so I shared my main points, certain he’d be pleased. Turns out, he had a different vision for the presentation entirely. This meant I needed to prepare a completely different speech, and quickly. Those warring critters returned with a vengeance, and cold sweat broke out on my face. On my entire body, actually, only it wasn’t cold. It was insanely hot as we were in Texas at the peak of summer. Except I had little time for a shower. Twenty minutes later, with new Power Point slides and graphics in place, stopwatch in hand, I prepared to spend the next two hours practicing until I’d cemented each word permanently in my brain. Once again, God had other plans. “Come...

God Moves Mountains that You Don’t Even See

The Lord will keep you from all harm— He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore. Psalm 121:7-8 It happened almost 14 years ago, but I remember it as if it was yesterday. She was 13 months old and finally ready to take her first steps. I was on the couch, reading, while she played with books on the bottom shelf of the bookcase. From the corner of my eye, I saw a swift movement, and held my breath while watching her get a hold of the ladder and pull herself up. Ever so slowly, I put my book down and silently moved a little closer to the area where my little explorer stood. She turned around and opened her mouth, in a triumphant smile. She looked at me, stretched her arms and rehearsed her very first steps. One, two, three… and fell into my arms. I picked her up and danced around, squealing in delight. My baby girl was walking! I called hubby, mom, dad, best friend, and the Washington Post. Baby walked! What a joy! Even as I type these words, a smile spreads across my face. Some of my favorite memories rest on the days when my two girls started exploring the world. But those were also the days when I never rested. I seemed to be always on alert, following their every step. As they ventured into their brand-new world of mobility, there were dangers everywhere. It was that marble table in the middle of the library, where I’d envision my baby falling, head-first. Or...

Lead me, this Good Friday, to the Cross

For forty-plus years, I’d heard the Scripture. I’ve seen movie portrayals of the Passion of Jesus, but several years ago it became real in a way that I neither anticipated nor prepared for. I sat in a meeting and we discussed how powerful it would be to have a cross made that was as close to the one Jesus would have been crucified on. “Can you do it?” “I think so.” We researched the facts and that is what they were, mere facts. Facts about the execution tool used by the Romans in the time of Jesus. We studied the dimensions and I set out to replicate the cross. Replicate the cross that my Savior was hung upon. It was simply a project, until the transformation of plain railroad ties began. The staining, the weathering. The distressing of the wood.  The distressing from being dropped and dragged. The deep imprints from the pounding of nails. The addition of red paint where the stains of blood would have been. It became real.  In all of its gruesomeness and brutality, it became beautiful. When the cross was assembled in the sanctuary it all came so overwhelmingly close. The reality of Jesus broken for me. Jesus broken so that my sins would be forgiven. Standing in front of this rugged cross I had a intimacy with the Lord that I had never had before. I sat with Him in the upper room, prayed with Him in the Garden of Gesthemene. I stood there with Him the day Pilate authorized His death. I walked alongside Him as He carried that cross.  I watched...

A peek into my journal

I thought about titling this “Naked and unashamed,” but that would make it look like I have a whole lot more confidence than I really have. With me, naked just is never a good thing! Whatever you want to call it, though, this post is about getting real. I wrote this in my journal recently, and then the next time I picked it up I felt so strongly that I should share it—not because it’s amazing writing, and not because I have the answers, because I don’t—but because I think someone out there needs to know that they are not alone. Here’s the truth: We don’t all feel inspired all the time, and we don’t always know how to pray. Even me—and I’ve published two books on prayer. So please read on and know that each person’s faith life will ebb and flow. Prayer may come easily sometimes and be more difficult at other times. But God remains the same, and He always wants to hear from us. I am so grateful. It’s Saturday morning—really almost noon—and I’m feeling that familiar resistance. I should work; I want to read. I should pray; I want to read. I should be productive—I have so much to do—but I’m tired and just want to indulge myself. Lord, what is it in me that wants to do meaningless, selfish things over spending time with You? Is it the fear—the knowledge—that You know me? That You see through my BS? That You know how far my heart and thoughts are from You in the daily grind? Revive that passion in me, Lord. Please. It was so good for me...

Feeding the Discontent Monster

I was mad. Discouraged. Ready to quit. In the span of a month, I’d been hit hard on every side—physically, emotionally, relationally. And to top it off, an area I’d poured my life into for over a decade seemed to be dying. It wasn’t fair. Wasn’t right. I knew God was in control, which meant—He’d allowed all this. That was what frustrated me most. It felt as if He’d intentionally led me to a painful dead end. These are the thoughts one has late at night, when sleep won’t come and negativity is fed by the predawn darkness. The more I thought about the events—and there were numerous—that had crashed into my nice, pre-planned, agenda-based world, the more upset I became. The heavier my discouragement felt. Until I became paralyzed by inactivity. In truth, by self-centeredness. That’s what it came down to. Entrenched in entitlement, I focused on the have nots instead of the haves. With thought after thought, I fed the Discontent Monster until her insatiable appetite overshadowed every good and precious thing Christ had given. The next morning, groggy, stiff, and still nursing a self-fed negative attitude, I opened my Bible and … read this: “…For I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little” (Phil. 4:11-12). Why had God allowed all these trials to hit? Why had He seemingly killed that which I was so certain, over a decade previously,...

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...

Self Imposed Fog

I read a devotional the other day on trusting God through the fog, the writer recounting a difficult drive down a foggy mountain road and trusting God to take her safely home. I have not had that experience of driving down a foggy mountain road. And yet, recently…I created my own fog on a bright sunny day. Nothing had changed. A blinding fog did not roll in and obscure my view. I just took my eyes off what God can do and let circumstances overwhelm me with doubt and fear. I was not a friend to myself. I was a saboteur of my own journey. For a while I let a thick fog swirl around me and swallow up my hope and faith and pull me into a dark place where discouragement filled my heart. We all have those days when praying, waiting, and working toward something are met with discouragement. We often find we derail our confidence in the Lord with our own weakness and wrong thinking because for a while we take our eyes off of Him and instead let a fog of doubt and worry surround us. The fog comes rolling in when I take my eyes off of the Lord. It is a miserable place to be when we feel like we have lost our way and can’t find a clear solution. There are multiple possibilities for our discouragement. We become impatient because we have already waited a very long time for answers. We might convince ourselves we have asked for too much or too big and back down from our asking. We don’t see...

Mama Bear Love

“That brings out the mama bear in me,” a friend exclaimed. Most parents love their children with a love so powerful it’s scary. New parents are blown away by love when they see their newborn baby. It’s been said that becoming a parent is like having your heart walking around outside your body. Such fierce love causes parents to struggle with their children growing up in a world filled with danger, evil, and potential pain. We make it our goal to control our child’s life. We take on the impossible task of guaranteeing our child’s safety. Adding to our fear is the realization our child has the freedom to choose, and we can’t control their choices. When our child is forty-five, we’ll still want their safety, well-being and happiness. Once a parent, always a parent. Recently, our twenty-four year old son mentioned a health issue he has and indicated he has no plans to have it taken care of. I couldn’t sleep that night. I started imagining all the possible results. In my mind, he was headed to an early grave because he left this issue untreated. The next morning, I read about Abraham, Sarah and Hagar in Genesis 21. God promised Abraham and Sarah a son, even though Sarah was well past childbearing years. Sarah decided to help God by offering her servant, Hagar, to Abraham so he could have a son by her. Her plan was to then raise this son as Abraham’s heir. Hagar had a son but it didn’t work out the way Sarah thought it would. A few years later, God fulfilled His promise...

Reading Music

    My son has been playing piano since he was four years old. Now at age 12, he is very good at playing solo music. He has an amazing gift of listening to music and finding the keys by hearing. Whenever he plays a song, he memorizes the music first. This can be a good thing because he can play music without having the notes in front of him. But it can be a bad thing because he reads music slowly since he leans so heavily on his hearing. He can’t just sit down with a piece of music and play each note. He has to study each note first, memorize their order and then play the song. This happens a lot with piano players since much of their study is done alone. In order for my son to get better at reading music, he tried out for our local youth symphony. He made the string ensemble, but the maestro understood that although my son plays very well, his music reading is slow. My son will have to work on reading each note as he plays them and develop that skill. At the first rehearsal, my son felt lost. Not only had he never played with other instruments before, he also fell behind in playing the music. He couldn’t read the notes nearly as quickly as the other students playing violin and cello who had learned to play their instruments among the orchestra. My son who excels in solo playing appeared disoriented and slow. Although he has been playing piano for 7 years, his talent did not show...