Mortally Wounded Hearts

Recently, while running, I came upon an older gentleman with hat on that said “Army Vet.” I was immediately prompted to thank him for his service because I’ve lived through sending a brother off to war. I’ve wrestled with not knowing if he would return alive. I’ve heard his stories. The sacrifice is real. Immediately, he told me his name was Joe and explained he was an Army medic. It was a pretty surface conversation initially. Joe went on to tell me how he was shot while saving a fellow soldier on the battlefield. Right then, Holy Spirit prompted me, “ask Him about Jesus.” I don’t like that I’m always hesitant in sharing Jesus. I love Jesus and I want to share His life-giving power, but I find myself doubting my words so much that oftentimes I shy away from it. But, hesitantly I asked, “did you come to know Jesus during this time?” Naively, I thought I would share Jesus with Joe, but the truth is he already radiated Jesus from head to toe. For three miles we walked together and he shared Jesus story after Jesus story of God’s faithfulness in his life. Being shot at 18 years old, 13 major surgeries, twice having open heart surgery, battling cancer, having three girls(two adopted), losing his wife unexpectedly to cancer … the stories went on and on and on. Yet, of all the stories he told, one stuck with me. “One day,  I went out to save a soldier and I was also shot. Right here.” Lifting his shirt, Joe revealed a scar on the right side of...

I don’t need a cheerleader

Around every corner, the messages are shouted. You are enough. BeYOUtiful. You are strong. Just be you. You’ve got this. You are beautiful. These well meaning sentiments are splashed across social media pages and in the pages of magazines. May I be honest with you? I am tired of them: all of them. I have grown weary of the “I am woman, hear me roar!” anthem. Many days, I just want the pom-poms to be laid down. All these fancy, pretty posts telling me how strong and wonderful I am are utter fallacy. Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy  4:2, NIV) I know myself. At forty-one years old, I can own up to my flaws. I wear makeup to hide and cover up facial features, and I select clothes to hide areas of my body. Honestly, I would prefer to not “just be me.” In a moment of “just being me,” I yelled at my daughter in the middle of Disney World. The harshness of my tone caused her eyes to fill with tears and her lip to tremble. Strong? Nope: not me, not then. I was tired, stressed over the rapid fire questions I was being asked, and completely incapable of handling it. In the crowd, in the constant motion and noise, I lost my mind. Seeing both my daughter’s reaction and the look of surprise on my husband’s face was enough for me to know I don’t got this. I don’t need a cheerleader to fill me with feel good messages....

When Your Convict Neighbor Shows Up Drunk To Church

Several months ago I learned an ex-con lives fifty feet from my front door. I share my response here. Thank God for grace, huh? We have been slowly making connections with Richard. A plate of muffins here. A dish of enchiladas there. Fixing his computer. Inviting him to church. Sharing a cup of coffee. One encounter at a time, we are loosely stitching together a relationship. Richard has come to church with us several times since Easter Sunday. Each time, I silently pray that Jesus’ love would pierce Richard’s heart. And each time, I am reminded that we can not limit our witness to Sunday mornings. We can not place all of the burden on our pastor’s shoulders. It is our responsibility – yours and mine – to witness to our neighbors. God placed us exactly where we are for a reason. He desires for us to share His love with everyone we come in contact with. And maybe that looks like inviting them to church. Or maybe it looks like a plate full of muffins. We can not minister to the soul of a man without also ministering to his body. It would be easier if this were not true. My life is busy. I have a lot of tasks on my to-do list. Baking muffins for my neighbor isn’t exactly my top priority. I would prefer to simply be able to extend an invitation for a Sunday morning service, sit silently next to him in the pew, and leave all of the hard work to my pastor. But it is not my pastor’s responsibility. It is mine....

Resetting For the New Year

I’m pretty sure I was born wearing running shoes. Then, somewhere along the way, in my rush to get things done, I picked up a heavy dose of people pleasing, coupled with an aversion to saying no. Combined, this can leave me with growing obligations and decreased flex time. And every year, come December, I’m left wondering how this happened. How one obligation led to another then another, many times without me paying attention. Then again, that’s the problem–that I don’t pay enough attention, and that I don’t plan ahead enough, leaving cushion for the unexpectes that are sure to arise. Which begs the question: How can I be led by the Spirit when I’m dominated by my schedule? When our daughter was young, I was determined to follow God’s leading in every area of my life, in every minute of my day. My goal–to learn to discern God’s voice better. I was convinced the more I turned to Him for guidance, the more I tuned my ears to Him, and the more I responded to His leading, the better my “hearing” would become. If I was in the middle of a task and sensed God telling me to stop, I did. Or if I felt Him nudge me to do something else, I did. I let go of all my expectations and plans and simply rested in Him. I soon discovered that with this plan, everything got done, only instead of stressing and angsting over the when and how, my days were filled with peace and the deep fulfillment of walking hand-in-hand in with Christ. I’ve often wondered, what...

Stop And Smell The Roses – Taking Time For A Year End Review Of Your Life

  But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15b ESV All the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is coming to a close: the house is a mess, the decorations might still be up, and yet now is the perfect time to stop and smell the roses and make time for a year end review of your life.  As a matter of fact, apart from the major holidays this specific week (between Christmas and the New Year) is my favorite time of the year. Do you want to know why?  Every year I take this week to sit and review what worked, what didn’t work, what needs to be improved and what I hope to do in the next year. It’s not a complicated process, but it is a strategic process that my husband and I do every year. We started doing this about ten years ago and it’s turned into the most thought provoking and productive week for both of us. Chances are you do something like this either mentally or on paper, so why not make a plan and see what you learn in the process. I’m going to share with you what I do, you take it, then tweak it to fit you and your family. Here’s what you need to get ready; paper/giant sticky notes/notepad colored markers/pens/highlighters calendar (last year and the coming year) music (this is very important for me) – I love to listen to “Epic Soundtracks” on Pandora so that I don’t get distracted by the words in the songs. I put those giant sticky notes...

A Lame Christmas

Christmas celebrations and seasons have changed throughout the years, but one thing in my childhood home has remained the same: the nativity. It is one of my favorite parts of Christmas, but also a favorite part of “home.” As a child, I stared at the details of the nativity for hours. When I was old enough to touch it, I would rearrange it, deciding which king should present his gift or how far away the shepherds might stand. One flaw to the nativity has been there as long as I can remember. The lamb is missing a leg. Well, that’s not exactly true. It’s missing the plaster on the leg. The wire frame is there, so it can stand up on its own…with a bit of teetering. My mom knows how special the nativity is to me, and she was thrilled to come across a old-looking sheep that was about the same size as this one and would fit well with the other figures. She bought it without hesitation. When she got home, she discovered something. Somewhere between the store and home, the sheep’s leg was broken. It, too, was lame. I took it home to incorporate into my own nativity as a reminder. We don’t have to be perfect to approach Jesus. We need to come as we are. Humility is difficult, because it reveals our weaknesses. But that’s where He meets us. That’s where He serves us. That’s where He saves us. He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: “When you are invited by...

What If Church Was More Like a Hospital?

I made several trips to the hospital with my dad while he battled cancer, sometimes in emergencies and other times for regular appointments and treatments. He received exceptional care. My mom received generous support. And I got to witness much of it. As I did, I wondered what made this hospital and its staff so special. What if the church was more like it? People are always welcome. I saw people in a variety of conditions—physically, mentally, financially, and emotionally—enter the doctors’ offices and hospital, whether it was a planned or emergency situation. Everyone received the same warm welcome. Each person was treated as a valuable person: not a project, nuisance, or uncomfortable inconvenience. People have time to talk—in plain English. Doctors and nurses rarely rush in and out of rooms. They sit down, look people in the eye, and speak in a language others can understand. They listen to questions and are patient through confusion and off-topic stories. One of dad’s doctors didn’t know dad had been admitted on a weekend, but stopped by once he heard the news and talked for a half hour. We’ve been approached by doctors we didn’t know, when we apparently looked lost roaming hallways and staring at elevator panels, and asked if we needed help getting somewhere. People followed up. Not once did we have to follow up with anybody who said they would call, make an appointment, or give more information. Many times, doctors and others went above and beyond even when they hadn’t obligated themselves to contact us. The head of a department, who didn’t even treat my dad any...

Why It’s Important To Forgive, Even When…We Don’t Want To

I can almost hear the sighs of exasperation. You are probably thinking to yourself, “seriously, she’s going to talk to me today about forgiveness? She has no idea what I am going through, what’s been done, what’s been said or how far off track things have gotten lately.” You know what, you are absolutely right! I don’t know what you are going through or have been through. I don’t know how bad it is gotten in your world lately, nor do I need to because I can tell you this, it has been a doozy of a run in my world too. As a matter of fact, I’m pretty sure I have stamped my foot (a lot here lately) and cried out to God that this just isn’t “fair”. This is just as hard for me to write as it is for you to read because I have been wrestling with God over this one and here’s what I’ve come up with. but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:15 ESV (underscoring mine) But. I never thought about it that way. But..if you do not, neither will your Father. But…I don’t want to. I still hurt from it. Oh my friend, you have no idea how much this pains me to write, but here it goes…we need to forgive much because we have been forgiven much. There, I said it. This is not to say that you agree with what has happened, but that you are cancelling that debt against you. When we hold on to that anger, resentment,...

How to Draw Strength From Christ

When we're at our weakest, when it feels as if our knees will buckle, God's strength is seen most clearly in us. (2 Cor. 12:19) Or at least, that's what we say, but how does that work, exactly? We know Christ is living inside us (1 Cor. 3:16), that He empowers us by His Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8), but what does that look like in the day-to-day? How, when life completely levels us, can we draw strength from Christ? About five years ago, my husband and I developed a short-term obsession with rock climbing. This was crazy for numerous reasons, the most obvious of which is my incredible fear of heights. And yet, somehow, secured in my harness and attached to my husband by a long, thick rope, I felt better. Stronger. A little. But I'd still tremble. And I mean, tremble enough that my shakes became visible to our guide. He called it the sewing machine leg, and he assumed it came from fatigue. To an extent, it did. I certainly wasn't the strongest or most agile woman to ascend the Arkansas rock face I attempted to tackle that day. But I was determined to make it to the top. And I did, with my husband's help. When I'd begin to falter, I'd feel a tug. A quick glance below showed my sweet husband, pulling on my rope inch by inch. This added strength–his strength–pushed me to the top. Sometimes I envision God doing the same with us. He's secured us in our harnesses of salvation, attached us to Himself, and determined to, inch-by-inch, get us up and over...

A Tale of Two Women and the Rest of Us In•between

She wore her issues like a coat. She entered my life one Christmas season. It was apparent upon meeting her that the road had been a rough one for her and her children. Her brokenness was visible. As we came into relationship and I learned more of her story, it was apparent how rough it actually had been. Circumstances led to poor choice after poor choice, but her heart longed for different, she just didn’t know what different could be. As we all know, the broken road is a hard one to walk and unlike the 30 minute television drama, life doesn’t always wrap up in an hour, or in a season for that matter. It was the night that I received the call that I realized just how shattered she was. She called from the back of the police car. She and her boyfriend were being taken to jail for physical abuse against her son. She called to ask if I could come get him. I met him at the hospital and my heart was ripped in two. The issues that led to her brokenness continue to this day. BROKEN.  She was the picture of perfection. Her life looked perfect from the outside. It screamed perfect. In all honesty, I avoided her for some time because the perfect-ness was intimidating and a bit off-putting. Perfect hair. Perfect kids. Perfect marriage. Perfect life. Perfect seasonal porch decor. PERFECT. Our lives eventually intersected and we came into relationship and I was given a peek behind the perfect curtain. As we all know, there is no REAL life that resembles perfect in...