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...

Hurricane Season?

Have you ever tried to tame a hurricane? How about just talking into one? Does your voice carry very far? The other night was my turn to teach the kids at church. I love these kids greatly—each and every one of them. But the other night was a test of my love. Their behavior was horrible. They wouldn’t listen for more than five second intervals, and I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time communicating in five second bleeps. By the time I left class, I was exhausted and emotionally drained. I tried complaining to God about it, but He didn’t seem too impressed. I reminded Him of how I had planned for the class, how I had put a lot of thought into the lesson. I was so excited about it because it was such a good lesson—a lesson that could really help them. But they were too busy whispering and talking and wiggling around. They were too busy trying to draw attention to themselves. God’s reply to me seemed to saying, ‘Have you looked at yourself lately?’ What a sucker punch. I may be 30 years older than those kids, but my behavior is just like theirs. I’m too busy whispering and talking and running around to listen to God’s voice. And when I look at what He did to prepare for me–His supreme sacrifice on the cross—I’m ashamed. Ashamed of how little I listen to Him. And yet He still loves me. Sometimes God will use drastic measures to get my attention, like a teacher who suddenly slams a book on the desk...

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...

When Your Heart Has No Peace and Eggs Are Everywhere

Our Thanksgiving family vacation was over. Greg and I, along with his parents, were nearing the end of our 8-hour road trip back home to the North Georgia mountains. We had spent the week in Orange Beach, Alabama with Greg’s entire family. As we sped along the interstate about an hour and a half from home, I saw tail lights of cars up ahead. Traffic began to slow and whatever had happened was clogging up the interstate around a sharp curve in the road. Traffic moved at a snail’s pace, but move it did, which is a reason for praise in the mess that is Atlanta traffic. Thankfully, it was Saturday and not Friday, which meant a much lighter traffic volume on the highway. Greg’s Mom and I mused about what might have happened as we inched forward. We could see several police vehicles stopped in the left lanes, and policemen were directing traffic into a single right-hand lane. Three fast moving lanes of traffic, plus a lane that merged from a perpendicular road, suddenly bottle-necked into one lane that moved about as fast as a herd of turtles. Within a few minutes we approached the disaster that caused the traffic angst. A large truck loaded with eggs had gone into the sharp curve at a high rate of speed and, oops, did not emerge from the curve upright. A clean-up crew with a front-end loader was dumping the remains of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of eggs into a dumpster that sat on the side of the interstate. Scrambled eggs poured out of every crevice of the dumpster and ran...

If given a choice, would I choose better?

Do worrisome life situations seem to follow you around? Do cycles of anxiety find themselves recurring in your life? If stressful moments have turned into recognizable patterns creeping up every year…. Then, don’t feel bad. You are not alone. It’s not hard to look around and find worry and anxiety. The data reports it is affecting even children with 1 in 5 kids suffering from anxiety, and 30% of those being young girls (source.) Sometimes the culprit is a lack of choosing well, or a loss of appetite for things of true value. In the dawn of technology and uber-consumerism, chasing after happiness with the next best thing has become a way of life. Our need to stay technologically current is a given and with it comes benefits. It’s less time-consuming, easier, and safer to communicate behind round emojis than in face-to-face conversations. I know because many times I have chosen to text rather than talk. There is deep value in connecting with family and friends, and I am thrilled to live in an age where technology allows us to do this with such ease. But sometimes consumer trends leave me searching in counterfeit places for things of sustenance. The next iPhone, a big screen TV, the perfect app all to create the best jobs, cars, schools, and bodies. Together, I am told, they produce happiness. But do they? While consumer striving grows louder, the authentic voice for what will genuinely make my soul happy grows quieter. And therein lies a tension. Living alongside this tension begs a crucial question: If given a better choice, would I choose it? Jesus...

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...

Pressure Holes

There is a lot of construction taking place near my home. When I leave our subdivision, whether I go right or left, there are great machines digging, drilling and moving materials around. One day as I was driving into town, I saw a large contraption drilling holes into a massive, misshapen block of cement. The cement slab was part of the old road, and the machine was breaking it down for removal. I found it interesting that the machine drilled holes into the cement first before applying pressure. Once there were several holes about one foot apart from each other, the machine’s clamps bore down on the cement, crumbling it into chunks. Both the holes and the pressure were necessary to tear down the strong block of cement. Satan knows this is true for God’s children too. The Bible guarantees that we will have great pressures and troubles in this life (John 16.33). The holidays are definitely proof of this truth. Christmas can bring amazing joy, but it also may add great amounts of financial, emotional, relational and mental pressures that are intensified with the busyness of the season. This is the time that we need to make sure that we are filling our weak areas with God’s grace. Are we staying in God’s Word? Are we communicating with our Heavenly Father? Are we renewing our minds in Christ daily? Are we finding rest in the Holy Spirit’s strength? Satan wants nothing more than to crumble us to bits, stealing our joy and robbing us of special moments. He wants to watch us fall and make the lives of...

May Our Feet be Quick to Move in Peace

  Hebrews 6:13-17 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Most all the armor items in this verse are straight-forward: breastplate, helmet; shield and buckle; sword. When I read this verse I imagine soldiers standing upright as their commanding general walks down the line yelling out preparations. Each item’s roll call is met with a collective and guttural “Yes sir”, indicating a battalion ready to be part of a respectable war. But when I get to the word peace my mind comes to a screeching halt. Confusion fills my head like smoke at a NASCAR race.   PEACE?!   I mean what in the world does peace have to do with a formidable fight!? My thoughts go from the valiant Braveheart to Goofy at Disneyland. Understandably swords, shields, helmets and flaming arrows make sense to me as requirements for a war. But then I ask myself, why would God cover the body with armor and then stop short at the feet? And why mention the word peace on the checklist for such undaunted combat? There are 52 bones in our...

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,...