The Lord is near to all who call on him. (Psalm 145:18)

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:18)

My intentions are not always yours, and I do not go about things as you do.
My thoughts and My ways are above and beyond you, just as heaven is far from your reach here on earth. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

The holidays are upon us once again, and I am amazed how fast the time flies year to year. I am reminded in the stillness, the beautiful glow, that we are really, truly, completely blessed. Every year as this season approaches and unfolds, my goal is always to intentionally carve out time with my immediate family to simply rest. To breathe in the moments and savor the time we have to not have a plan. Nowhere to go, no need to step outside of our dwelling, but to simply enjoy time together at home. As many of you know, our lives have been considerably busier this year with two in college: my oldest child, Rylee, and my husband, Ryan. That on top of two full time careers and an additional part time worship ministry position for Ryan with a new church plant in Springfield. With four children, we have additional responsibilities to manage as they participate in extracurricular activities. Then, as we carve out time to help and volunteer in our community, the time we have together shrinks even more so. All that busy aside, my priority is to always start with the focus on God’s priority for my life, for my family, and then organize and schedule everything else secondary. When time with my husband and time with my family gets sidelined, and doesn’t occur as it should, well, you can imagine the frazzled, frustrated state I am in. It is not good. So, sometimes that means we bow out of something to regain balance, prioritize. If the people we work with, minister with, do life with are not understanding, supportive and encouraging of that, and insist everything should be secondary to them---something’s not right. When that happens, consider who you are doing life with and choose to be transparent, expect and provide accountability. I am thankful we have that in our lives. Not everyone can say that. Perhaps for you, this is a moment when you gotta do inventory on a personal, spiritual level.

When was the last time you sat down with your family, and had a meal? A conversation about nothing in particular? Just sit, eat, listen. When is the last time you did that?

When was the last time you took time out to have devotional, discuss with your children the depths of a particular scripture passage or a subject that has caught their interest along their faith journey?

When was the last time you stopped everything and prayed with your partner, your children?

I have to be transparent here and confess we do it, but not often enough in response to all of the above. It is a struggle, and it should not be. So, I was praying again this morning in my quiet time, acknowledging to Father God my weakness, my need for order, for getting through my checklist of day to day tasks, and my apparent lack of recognizing my desperate need for Him at ALL times. It is a shame when it takes something upsetting our plans, our idea of how things are supposed to go for us to recognize HIS plan. My plan is only good when I recognize it’s because of His good. His plans, His ways, are higher and better than mine. Something doesn’t go right, my natural response is to shake my fists at Him, when instead my reaction as a child of God should be to throw up my hands in surrender and acknowledge the One who holds THE plan for my life all along.

What are you doing, and why are you doing it?

If you are getting accustomed to or feel you have no choice but to go along with the frantic pace of life, ask yourself this: Why? What’s my priority? What will it take to hit the Reset button? What will I do to make an appointment for myself daily to Reset?

We need to do this. We should do this. When our Priority is set on Christ first, all other priorities will fall into place. That may require a sacrifice on your part, acknowledging you have given something higher priority in your life that is not deserving of it. Identify it, set it, and choose to reset it every single day. This is what personal accountability looks like. He is good Father, and He is waiting for your surrender every single day because He knows and understands our humanity; He is ready to hear you, to accept you, to love you, and to inspire you to step out more in His likeness. Every. Single. Day.

Join me in the Reset. You are not alone. We can do this. Thank you, Father, for the Reset.

The battle belongs to the Lord.....

Every day something other than God threatens to control me. It is a reality of life and what we must face, endure, push through to get to the end of the day saying we accomplished A, B, C. For some of us, the pressure to perform, to please, to anchor ourselves in what we do and how we do it is almost overwhelming. We are very hard on ourselves, we are hell bent on not just the satisfaction of knowing we did it and can check it off the to do list, but to hopefully hear someone say, “Wow! You went above and beyond! You are amazing!” Why is it that the God who created us, established in us upon our receiving His salvation, that we are loved, cherished, highly favored and beautifully purposed, is not enough? Do we realize when we adopt this mindset, this way of living, what we are saying with our lives and to our God? Without realizing it, we are setting ourselves up for immense disappointment and dissatisfaction. This is not the mindset that God intends for His children. The funny thing is, He knows and understands why we behave the way we do. He gets us. It is only human, to want to hear we’ve done well in this life from our family and friends, our peers and colleagues, our leaders and mentors. I don’t like admitting my struggle, but it is a very real battle that takes place in my mind. I don’t like asking for help, I don’t know why it gets in my head that somehow this is an indication I am weak and incapable and that will result in that particular person seeing me as weak and incapable. Well, it doesn’t take long for me to hit a wall when I realize I can’t go any further and in fact need help to accomplish the task I have before me, so I have a choice to either ask for help or waste time stewing about how frustrated I am because I am stuck and I’d rather not stoop to asking for help. The battle becomes even uglier when we have had words spoken to us without thought of impact, such as “I don’t need the distraction”, and “I’d rather not have us looking incompetent”. The perception and intent others have when they speak to us is not often received that way, is it? Those words “distraction” and “incompetent” stick personally, and threaten to haunt our mindset in our approach to the tasks yet ahead that we must accomplish. How do we stop this maddening mind battle? We call upon the Source, the One who set us free and established the Holy Spirit in us the moment we came into relationship with Him. We must choose to stop the battle before it completely takes us over, and release it all, ask God to take what has trampled us in this life, and infuse us with His good and perfect strength and peace. He is good. No matter what we must punch our way through day to day, He is always good and His purpose is great …. but we must choose to trust Him. When we stop the maddening battle in our minds, by breathing deeply, speaking the name of Jesus, praying and speaking the truths of scripture, determining our mind to be set on our Father God, we can stand with confidence and kick all that threatens to control us to the curb. No guilt, no shame, just release the battle, struggle, the ick we weigh ourselves down with---job stress, parent worry, marriage struggles, financial struggles-and trust Him!

You have a choice, you always have a choice and nobody can make that choice for you!

Depend upon Him, or depend upon yourself. The result is either freedom or frustration. (Daily Hope with Rick Warren)

“Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires …. Instead, give yourselves completely to God, for you were dead, but now you have new life. So use your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God” (Romans 6:12-13 NLT, second edition).

I’m not typing this, saying this, or thinking this because it is easy. It is not. Life is hard. It will always be hard. But God is good. He is always good. I know from personal experience, as I am walking through this battle right now, the result of choosing it is much more freeing.

We put ourselves in a prison when we choose let the battle control us. I am choosing to trust Him. I am choosing to depend upon Him. Join me in the battle. I am praying you choose Him too. We are all in this together.

Hope, in the badlands.....

“Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert, rivers in the badlands” (Isaiah 43:18-19 MSG)

What is life without significant struggle? Not reality I can tell you that. Some have had more than their fair share of struggle than others, and there is good reason for it. Notice I didn’t just say there is a reason for it, but there is good reason for it.

I came upon this scripture today, and it hit a very raw place in me, because of the current season I am experiencing. A visual in my head, as I read the scripture several times, of precisely God’s intent for me right now. For nearly a year now, I have been incredibly unsettled in my job. I didn’t have any specific indication that my role would be changing in any way, but the pressure was on in ways I cannot fully explain. Some unexpected transitions are underway in my workplace this month, and I find myself in a place I did not expect to be. As I am preparing for the changes coming, I find I am oddly at peace with it. I am not shaken or surprised, but I have confirmation now for how unsettled I have been. I believe wholeheartedly that God has my best in mind and I trust Him completely. I am aware today more than any other, just how blessed I am to have family and friends who love and support me unconditionally, and a circle of colleagues whom I can confide in and rely upon to give me solid advice and counsel as I consider what is the best direction for me to go.

Life is constantly changing, when we do not realize it, it is constantly changing. That job you’ve had for 25 years, could suddenly end tomorrow. Your marriage of 15 years, could suddenly be in jeopardy because of your partner’s confession to you that the love just isn’t there anymore for them. Your life could be completely turned upside down by a diagnosis from your doctor today that you have a terminal illness. Your family could be tragically ripped apart today by a serious life event.

What is your first reaction? How will you choose to respond in this moment, this unexpected and life altering moment when you have a choice to make that will not only effect you but those immediately around you?

My natural reaction, if I did not have Christ, would be anger. Anger would lead me to bitterness, and ultimately resentment toward those I considered responsible for the crap I’m forced to endure. That choice to be sunk by my circumstances, is so far from what God intends for me. There has to be a shift in us at this point from what would be our natural reaction, to a supernatural reaction. That’s because of Holy Spirit living in us! I believe God has had His hand upon me for a long time leading up to this season. I believe He is with me in and through every moment of this transition, and I believe He is working on my behalf to ensure what comes next is far better than what I have experienced thus far. This season, this difficult season, as much as I’d like to avoid it and skip over it to the good stuff, holds great purpose for me. The scripture in Isaiah today was perfectly timed because it is a reminder (the visual helps!) that “He is making a road for us through the desert, rivers in the badlands…”

So today, I am keeping that visual in my head, walking it out, trusting my Father God with what He intends for my good to come about. He is a good Father. I may not agree with what’s going down, but I know there’s purpose far beyond what I can understand right now.

I know someone reading this is dealing with something and needs to be reminded that there is Hope. He is our Hope. Don’t give up, my friend. I’m not giving up, and I am believing for greater things to come!

The goodness of God

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:9 NLT)

I had a conversation with my son last night on our way to drop him off to his school play rehearsal, and it was timely I think. He talked about an issue, some drama that went down with a group at school amongst some of his Thespian classmates, something that would concern any parent. My heart warmed as I listened to him share how their teacher was approached for help, intervened with this group and the issue handled appropriately for the sake of the one deeply hurt by the entire situation. I had a chance to share with my son how important it is to think before speaking, that what may be interpreted one way by many as harmless and amusing, could be entirely hurtful and wrong for the person who directly receives it. I was a proud Mama at that moment to hear my son agree and witness this moment of truth and kindness sink into him for what I believe will shape him well into adulthood.

Every single day we all have circumstances coming at us that threaten to take the best of us and turn it into something very ugly. If we aren’t thoughtful and careful in considering what we are about to say before we say it, we could do some very serious and lasting damage on someone else’s life. Once you speak it, regardless of your intention, you better be prepared to live with how it effects the person on the receiving end. So, how are you choosing today to show the goodness of God to others? To your community? To your world? Regardless of your position in society, Christian brothers and sisters, this season more than any other we are seeing people become disheartened and disenchanted by the church. I have personally witnessed over the years a number of people leaving the church. And it isn’t for the same reasons, it is a variety of reasons. What makes me sad is, the way the church treated them shadowed any impression they may have ever had of who Christ is and what a relationship with Him is. That ought not be. When someone sets foot in the church, my hope is they don’t leave saying how good that church was, but in fact how good God is! That’s the entire point of why we are the church, isn’t it?! How foolish we are to think we as the church must make that first impression by what we do when they set foot in our buildings, our worship gatherings on Sunday? I am far more convicted today than ever before, that we are to begin before we approach our gatherings as “the church” with prayer! We need to consider on an individual level whether or not we are truly humbled, broken, and open to the Holy Spirit using us in our next encounter with someone who needs to know Christ. Relationships are key to sharing the love of Christ with the world. It doesn’t matter where you go to church, your religious preference, your denominational allegiance, etc. What matters is what you have in Christ, and that you are sharing it every chance you get in the way you live this life day by day.

Truth, kindness, mercy and love are vital. Without these, everything is just going through the motions, mechanical and pointless in terms of eternal value. How dare we expect God to extend us grace, if we are not extending it to others. It doesn’t work that way, and I can’t imagine living my life that way and having the ability to stand before my Father God one day to account for it.

We are called to be hope in a world that has so very little worth hoping for anymore. God is patient, and because of that we have an opportunity to make the best of our time on this earth to live well, and love well. Let’s do it, let’s get out there and make the most of what we have been given.

Rest, yes, rest.....

“A simple life is not seeing how little we can get by with—that’s poverty—but how efficiently we can put first things first. . . . When you’re clear about your purpose and your priorities, you can painlessly discard whatever does not support these, whether it’s clutter in your cabinets or commitments on your calendar.”
(Victoria Moran, 'Lit From Within: Tending Your Soul For Lifelong Beauty')

‘We cannot be dependent on ourselves and dependent on God at the same time. When we consider the practice of rest unnecessary, we also will inevitably lose sight of the necessity of God.’
('The Necessity of Rest and the Necessity of God', by Anne Jackson, Relevant Magazine August 27, 2008)

God provides for His own.
It is pointless to get up early,
work hard, and go to bed late
Anxiously laboring for food to eat;
for God provides for those He loves, even while they are sleeping.
(Psalm 127:2 The Voice)

There is a lot to be said as we get a little bit older, and hopefully wiser, and realize the time we have on this earth is so very brief. I remember as a kid how summer seemed to last (but actually it was!) much longer than it is for my children today. Days spent playing with neighborhood friends, playing games, imagining worlds away from reality in our backyards, getting creative with whatever we could find in our garages or around the yard. I had a couple friends who were in sports and not around as much but I had several friends who like us were around during the summer and doing a whole lot of nothing. To me, that’s how summer should be. So, I’m thinking today, how do we capture that and bottle it and apply it somehow to everyday life? It is something that has stuck with me throughout my life and thanks to my parents establishing a priority for rest and balance early on, I am doing that with my own family. My kids have been involved in sports and clubs on occasion, but it has always been by their choice to engage in it and our ability to work it into our schedule. Priority for us has always been family first, everything else second. And that includes church stuff. How do we do that, you say? Being on church staff and in ministry on and off for years now, we have learned to set a boundary that we have found some understand and some do not. I grew up a senior pastor’s kid, so we were at church for just about anything and everything, and typically the first ones to arrive and the last ones to leave. But before we did, my folks always made sure our time at home with each other was the higher priority. Sunday lunch in the dining room at home was a must, and I honestly don’t remember it any different most of the time. I know now more than ever, that was my folks’ way of establishing early on the importance and necessity for time together with our family before all others. It is a simple thing, committing to set time aside weekly rather than committing to two other things that could result in the week ending with you wondering, “Where did the time go?”

I am a creature of restful habit, and I find out pretty quickly if I’ve strayed away from that. When I watch others around me scramble week to week to get their long list of things accomplished--and some have a whole lot more going on that I do!—it causes me to stop and consider how I can do better with balancing my own life. I will always be the type who enjoys spending Sunday afternoon curled up on the sofa with a good book, listening to some great music, or watching Netflix, drifting off to sleep for a nap. No agenda, no alarms, no plan, just an open afternoon to do a whole lot of nothing. I don’t always get it, the occasional Sunday afternoon comes and I get it in my head I have got to run a few more errands or do a couple of things around the house so when Monday comes I am not as weary walking in the door after a long day at work. Even though the perfectionist in me is crying out for order, I find release when I learn to let those things go and settle for a beautiful state of undone and settle in to my commitment to rest.

His perspective, my balance......

…Everything is permissible, but not everything is helpful… (1 Corinthians 10:23)

I have this ongoing struggle, and I know I am not alone in this. When you are on staff with a church, the struggle is intensified all the more I think. This need to do something good all the time, every time the opportunity presents itself, and especially if nobody steps up to make it happen. I’m learning as I get a bit older, and after asking for and receiving wisdom from those who have gone before me, that this is a balance I must find for myself. A big part of that struggle is this need to please. Is it a need to please others, and by that I mean other Christians—especially our immediate church community and fellow staff members—or is it a desire to please Father God? This is where the struggle is very, very real for me. I felt for so much of my life, if I said and did the right things that I was told would make me a good person, then I was set. I was at church every time the doors were open, for every event that was on the church schedule, in church choir/worship ministry, in handbells, helping with various ministries, going on mission trips, helping with outreach projects, volunteering in special projects around the church and in our community……so I must be way up on the Father’s list of good, right? And to add to all that, I was taught to memorize all the scriptures, the Roman Road, the latest witnessing tools that our youth ministers and camp leadership told us would enable us to share the gospel and save so many for Jesus. Can you sense the pressure, the intense pressure building from all of this? I am my worst enemy. God knows it and the devil knows it too. God reminds me by His unconditional love, His mercy by the blood of His Son on the Cross, that guilt has no place in my life. As I headed into my first years of marriage with Ryan, and we had our first opportunities to serve in ministry and then on staff, I learned very quickly I was going to have to find that balance for myself. I listened and watched as others in ministry took on far more than they should have, and I attempted to do the same. I learned from others who found balance and seemed to flourish, truly find a place in a thriving ministry and saw great things come out of it as they followed the Father’s leading. I have been in the unfortunate position to witness leadership burn out, give in to temptation, and never return to ministry. I have heard and experienced personally some tragic stories coming out of ministry, marriages ending, children going astray, severe mental illness and suicide. The struggle is real, and the consequences to losing sight of our perspective on God’s intent for our good can be brutal.

I learned at some point between churches and staff positions, that it is okay and absolutely necessary to say no. It is vital for the balance of you and your family to learn to embrace the necessity to not do every single thing that is good for the Kingdom. I am not intended to do every single thing. You are not intended to do every single thing. That pressure that comes with this struggle, is not from God and is in fact from ourselves. I keep coming back to perspective. For so long, not sure how long now, God has been speaking to me clearly about the necessity to get His perspective and keep it. When I choose His perspective first, everything else flows through it. When everything else flows through Him, then I can find my balance, I can say no without guilt.

What do I need to let go of? What do you need to let go of? What’s driving you to do every single thing that you are doing? If you’re first response isn’t God, if your heart is not 100% certain it is entirely about God and His call to you to do this, then consider it is not necessarily helpful. There is a whole lot we could list that is permissible. A whole lot. But not everything is helpful. Especially if it is at the expense of your time with Father God, and your family. Consider it, then re-set your focus on God’s perspective. Everything, everything, everything flows through it and it is entirely good.

I think Rick Warren’s words sum it up well, so I’m just going to leave this here for you….

‘If the devil can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy. He’ll get you so busy that you don’t have time for the important stuff—time alone with God, ministry and mission.’
(Daily Hope with Rick Warren, “Don’t Be Distracted from the Work God Has for You”,

Love, love, love......

“Long before he laid down the earth’s foundations, [God] had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love” (Ephesians 1:4 MSG)

In my life, I think I’ve experienced love on several levels but I am no expert. None of us can claim that. If you can, well, you aren’t human. We are all lifelong students in the experience of love. My first experience with love was most likely before I was aware of it, as an infant. If you are a parent, you know what I am talking about. The look on a baby’s face when that first smile appears, tiny hands reaching up, a sleepy one snuggling in to sleep in the arms of Mom and Dad. We see it in their eyes, I can’t explain it but it is a glow that only a parent can see. Love. I think in some way, it is our love reflecting back to us in their eyes. It is indescribable and something that makes a lasting impression the moment it happens.

As a teenager, I remember the first boy I had a crush on and thought I “loved”. I look back at those years, and I see a girl who was caught up in what those new emotions, new feelings did to my heart. That first crush, first heart break, finding my way through the raw emotion of it all and wondering how I’d ever recover, well, it was just the beginning of my journey into discovering the many different kinds of love.

Somewhere between that first crush and my first boyfriend, I found the Lord pressing into my heart to renew my commitment to Him. I had accepted Christ at a very young age, 7 years old, so I was very immature in my faith but I think God sees and understands that and intends to use it for our growth and maturity as a Christ follower. At the age of 12, I found myself wrestling and collapsing into a new found level of faith in Christ and made the decision to renew my commitment to Him.

As a college student, and two more intense relationships under my belt so to speak, I found myself really struggling to establish a healthier self-esteem because I was finding that my happiness was depending far too much on having a companion. Thankfully I was able to get some much needed therapy and work through a number of issues, giving me an opportunity to identify what I needed and how best to step forward in the life I had been blessed with and did not fully appreciate. I am so grateful for the people in my life through those years—my family, my best friends, my mentors, my teachers/professors, pastors and so many other people in my life who were praying for me to find peace, to be empowered and fully rooted in Christ. That was a season of my life in which I fully appreciated for the first time the depth of love that Christ has for me. I believe God allows us to reach the rawest moments in our lives to teach us just how fully, abundantly He loves us!

He does not require or desire anything less than for us to simply know Him. He doesn’t want sacrifices, He simply wants us to embrace the mercy He has given us so freely.

'I don’t want burnt offerings; I want people to know Me… '(Hosea 6:6 The Voice)

Love is at its best when we know in our hearts Whose we are, how highly blessed and beautiful we are in Christ, and we can confidently walk through life knowing nothing else matters. Everything else is secondary to our relationship with the Father. Everything is secondary.

I love my husband, I love my children, but I love Jesus more. He is first and best in my life, and because of that my focus on any given day should begin there. His love is enough, always enough. When I am at my worst, He is there to lift my eyes to His presence and fill my heart with a love that cannot be matched by anything this world would attempt to equal.

Where does it begin for you? What will you choose today when you consider how you have experienced love in this life? Return to Him, to His first and best love for you.

There is no other, none greater, and none better. He is Jesus, and He loves us.

The Good, the Bad, the Ugly......What's My Choice?

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.
There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures. (James 1:16-17, The Message translation)

All of my life
In every season
You are still God
I have a reason to sing!
I have a reason to worship!
I will bring praise!
I will bring praise!
No weapon formed against me shall remain!
I will rejoice!
I will declare!
God is my victory and He is Here!
(Desert Song, Hillsong)

The Fall semester, back to school, a return to routine is upon us and for most of us it is welcomed with great delight! When something unexpected darts into our day without warning, and especially if we are already in a vulnerable state, it can send us into a downward spiral quickly. I had one of those days this week that went something like this:

6:20am Out of bed/And so another day begins……
7:30am Chloe to the bus
8:15am Arrive at work
3:00pm Early departure from work (ate lunch while I worked through to get the most hours I could in for the day and minimize use of personal time)
4:00-4:30pm Pick up my youngers (AJ and Chloe) from the bus stop
5:00pm Arrive at WHS and wait for Bailey to finish audition for school play
5:30pm Bailey finishes audition

*Here is where the day bit the dust: 5:30pm I was supposed to get everyone and be at WIS for AJ’s homeroom team meeting/orientation. Unfortunately circumstances beyond my control, Ryan being at night class and hungry children gnawing on day old leftover strawberry poptarts in the van resulted in this Mom simply coming to the end of herself and saying to God and to herself, ”Nope. It’s just not going to happen tonight. I give.”
At this point in the evening, I was simultaneously ready to scream and collapse into a puddle of convulsing tears.

I work very hard every single day to keep it together for my family, for my job, for the sake of simply saying I accomplished a day---but the reality is, some days it breaks me. Some days I am able to hit a rhythm and ride through the day without much turbulence. Other days, I can claim a portion of the day as a victory, and hopefully coast on that the remainder of the day without incident. Some days are like the one I detailed above, and I am ready to stamp it and myself, “Failure”.

Do you see the deception?

You have a CHOICE. I have a CHOICE. ALWAYS, there is a CHOICE. At any given time, life is going to hand us a big fat sour lemon. Guaranteed. So how will we choose to handle it?

I allowed that momentary deception, because of my reaction to circumstances outside of my control, to steer me toward a conclusion of “Failure”. The day was not a failure. I was not a failure. That moment was allowed to occur in God’s divine plan for my life, because He knows the outcome and He has the victory!
My mind, my heart, my hands will attempt to control and orchestrate my life day to day, but the Holy Spirit resides within me to keep me in check, to assure me when I choose Him, that regardless of how unpredictable life is, God has it all well in His hands. I don’t need to know it all, and I don’t want to know it all because I’m pretty sure if I did, I could not handle it.

We are deceived when we allow our circumstances to shape our perception. The Holy Spirit resides in each of us to always change that, re-set that. But we have to choose it! It is not automatic and it is not our nature. We are human, we are flesh, and so in spite of being children of God, we must practice holy habits. We must meditate on, study, speak His Word and pray, pray without ceasing, praise Him in all circumstances, and when we are hit by something difficult we must choose to stand and praise Him still!

I didn’t say it was easy, but it is necessary. To be like Christ, to be closer to holy like Him, takes practice, lots and lots of practice. So on our lesser than best days, we pick ourselves up and pull ourselves together, wipe the tears from our faces, stand up and stumble one step at a time through the mess before us and raise our hands in victory. You can do this. I can do this.

Be deceived no longer, my friend. Embrace His good and perfect will for you and trust He has made a way for you always.


‘I am in control—calm and serene.
I am watching quietly from where I dwell….’ (Isaiah 18:4 The Voice)

I didn’t make it to vote yesterday, but intend to in November. I have decided on my choices for various candidates on federal and state levels. I will not share that here because for me it is a personal choice that I’d rather not have to defend to people who don’t agree with my choices. My stand is this and only this: it is vital that we educate ourselves and not simply vote our conscience. We are part of a great community, a great country, an amazing world with such a beautiful mixture of cultures, beliefs, traditions precisely as God created and intended for it to be. There is no place for divisive, cruel, narrow minded, one size fits all language and attitude amongst us. We need to make more room in our hearts, in our minds, in our conversations for GRACE. God extends it to us, so should we extend it to one another. There are no perfect candidates, they are all entirely human and flawed. Somehow we all have to find our way through the political nonsense and vote for leadership that best represents our beliefs, our freedoms, our hopes and dreams for our country. Then, when the elections are concluded, we need to continue to communicate with our leadership what we expect of them and hold them accountable. They all need and want to hear from us because they represent us. We cannot take this responsibility lightly, just as they do not take their responsibility in their respective position lightly.

My devotional today was timely particularly in light of the current election season. I have wondered at times how God views all this that is going on. Scripture tells us precisely how he views it. He is being patient, watching and fully intent on making His greater purpose come into being when the time is right.

In Isaiah 18, we read as the armies approach, and the people wonder as they gaze at these foreigners how they will ever defeat them and when God will act to defend them. God speaks and acts in a manner that may easily be interpreted as passive; in fact, He is simply being patient, waiting and watching to act according to His good and perfect will. When we become emotional, frustrated, fearful, angry, anxious, distraught about what is happening in our lives and even in this highly political election season, we need to take a deep breath, step back and ask God to speak, to move, to calm. He does not act without great purpose. His is a purpose we cannot fully understand. When pride puffs us up, and we are spouting our opinion and throwing God’s Word and our religiosity at each other, we need to stop and consider this is not how God intends for us to live. This is not how He intends for us to exist.

We are not God. God is in control, not us. The moment you think you have control, have earned the right to be in control, or deserve to be in control….my friend, that is a very dangerous place to be. Humility is necessary, is required, to fully embrace and live out the grace God extended to us and now expects us to extend to one another. I shall not speak for God, but will boast only in His love and sacrifice for me. I shall not claim to know as much as God, but will point others always and only to His Word and to His all sufficient power as our King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. I shall always place God first in my life, by my speech, my actions, my example to others in how I work, play, live out this life I have been given. To be like Christ, to reside more fully in the obedience He has called me to, I find it has served me well to take more time to be still in His presence, to close my mouth and listen more often than I choose to open it and speak, and to make myself more open and available to what He intends for me to do with my time on this earth.

God is in control, He is watching and waiting to intercede at just the right time. I don’t understand it, but I look back at some of the most difficult times in my life—down on my knees, crying out to God, shaking my fists at Him and screaming, “Why won’t You do something, God! Now, I need You to move right now!”—and I see it. I know now why He chose to wait. I know now why His answer to me at times was, “No”. I know now why He did not answer but simply waited for me to collapse into His arms and at the end of myself, find He had not changed, He had not moved, He was still there for me. Unchanging, unfailing, unending. He is God. He has His reasons, and I may not agree with Him and I definitely do not understand all of His ways, but I am learning. That is the purpose of this journey after all. So as we step through this difficult political season, as we walk out the remainder of our days, regardless of our interpretation of it all we are called to be set apart. We are called to be His light, His love, His grace in a world that has no interest in any of it and is entirely selfish and determined to destroy itself.
Consider today the GRACE you have been given, and then ask yourself—

When is the last time you extended it to someone you determined did not deserve it?

What makes you more deserving of it then?

Truth is, none of us deserves it. But God has given it to us anyway. I am so thankful for that. Thank you, Father…..

‘Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
Amazing love, now flowing down
From hands and feet that were nailed to the tree
As grace flows down and covers me…’ (Christy Nockels, Grace Flows Down)

Here it comes....

Walking into work this morning, I had my usual in hand-coffee, handbag, lunch tote. It is cloudy today, didn’t watch the weather forecast but clearly we are due for rain. Sure enough, as I stepped up the sidewalk to my building, it began to sprinkle. I stopped to pull my umbrella from my handbag and all I could think was, “Lord, please hold off the downpour until I can get inside to my office…”

God’s timing is perfect, and well it was so true for my morning today. Between a word I heard on the radio, my morning devotional and what occurred as I made my way in to work, it was evident He was speaking very clearly to me about something.

‘Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.’ Proverbs 19:21 ESV

It is all good and fine when we have a plan. Day to day, we all have our planned pattern of events from the time we rise in the morning to the time we fall into bed at night. Most of us have established a routine of life, some of us have a busier routine than others, but it is our routine nonetheless. When something unexpected occurs in life, or several somethings unexpected occur and we are suddenly standing face to face with the threat of a downpour, how do we respond? Do we frantically search for protection, shelter, scamper into the closest place of refuge? Or do we consider standing firm, recognizing the impending downpour is quite possibly the shake up our lives may need?

Life guarantees no good thing, but we are certain to experience a whole lot of unexpected circumstances. As we watch God allow these events to unfold, we need to press into Him and seek His greater purpose beyond what we can see right in front of us. I’m finding it to be true for me, often that pressing in is against my preference. I’m tired, life has beaten me up some days more than others, and honestly I would much rather kick my shoes off and crawl back into bed and hide under my soft, fluffy comforter, safe and warm. It is in those times, when I push beyond my preference, call upon the Holy Spirit residing deep within, and ask Him to embolden me to press on, I find my faith is stretched, strengthened, and I am restored to a place of greater confidence and trust in the God who orchestrates it all. I don’t have to do that, I could choose to give in to my own selfish needs and desires. I could choose to become complacent and bitter, wallowing in this pit of my own making. Or, I could rise, choose to lean into the Father and call upon the power of the name of Jesus, and stand through what is right before me. Stand-often times only by the strength of those around me, my family and my friends, who hold me up with the power of prayer, with their encouragement, mentoring and unconditional love, because I have none left on my own. Stand-primarily because I have given up all I know within my own strength, and recognize very quickly I am nothing without my God and He is absolutely enough. When the downpour comes, I won’t run but will welcome it as the refresh that my soul needs.

His purpose for us can become blurred, muddied when we get stuck in the routine of life. It is in those moments that we need to dig far more deeply, seek Him with greater desperation, and relinquish the parts of us we’ve allowed to become numb to all that is occurring around us, so that He can do the necessary work in us. We cannot be complete, whole in Him in our days on this earth, we are on that road. The journey is life long, and His purpose is unfolding before us a little bit more every single day.

Join me in standing as the downpour approaches, and let’s walk in it and trust God to do His work in us.

Getting down the mountain.....

I am not sure when it started, but at some point in my life I developed an extreme fear of heights. My Dad has the same struggle, so I sometimes wonder if perhaps it is hereditary? Hmm, not sure but would be interesting to research that. I remember one of my first snow ski trip experiences with my church youth group when I was in 8th grade I think. That was actually my second ski trip, so I had some experience after my first ski trip, and surprisingly, getting back on the slopes after a year wasn’t bad and the skill came back to me pretty quick. I loved it, and we would enjoy going annually for Spring Break with our youth group at UHBC in Springfield, Missouri. Awesome memories! My 8th grade year trip, I was bound and determined like many in our group, to tackle one black diamond slope. For those of you who have not been snow skiing before, that is the highest or nearly highest level difficulty slope you can take on. It is extremely steep, to the point I found myself feeling as if I could topple off the mountain into mid-air and well, die. There I stood, at the top of that slope I fully intended to conquer, and I was gulping down the fear, felt my heart beating in my chest quite loudly in my ears. And for whatever reason, my youth pastor took a real interest in guiding, coaching me down that slope. While everyone else in our group had headed down the slope, there I was, slowly inching my way down that steep slope, making the widest turns I could and at times sitting to take a little break and gauge how much further I must go. It was agonizing and terrifying, absolutely exhausting and I nearly lost it a couple times. But Todd stayed with me and encouraged me without ceasing, telling me I could do this, I was not going to slide down the majority of it on my backside, and he coaxed me into staying up on those ski’s and slowly but surely I did make it down that slope. I did it. I actually did it, and it is safe to say that was one of the most triumphant moments of my life that day. I had conquered my fear, and I was so thankful to have someone willing to stay by my side and coach me through it and not give up, not give in to my fear. I learned that day, there was no easy way out, there was no going around this, and that I had to face it and push through it to get down that mountain. Oh, goodness, what a life lesson this is for so many of us, right? How many times have we had to face something terrifying, seemingly insurmountable in our lives? How many times have we stopped and immediately wondered, “How do I get out of this?”

How amazing it is to consider that in our most vulnerable moments in life, God does His best work. We are most certainly going to face hardship, struggle, and even defeat in this life. But because of Christ, we are able to overcome. Defeat is temporary, it is not eternal. I have found in some of the most difficult circumstances of my life, that He is enough. Every single time. He is enough. There is always help and hope in the One who created me, purposed me, forgives me, restores me and delights in me! I am painfully aware as I look back at my life and the experiences I have had, things could have gone a completely different direction if I had not chosen to fully release my life to the hands of my Father God. It is a choice, a choice I made years ago, and a choice you can make all the same. There is a Savior, who loves you and cares for you on a level far deeper than anything you’ve experienced before. Let Him in. I promise you will be so glad you did. He is going to guide you and coach you better than anyone on this earth can, I guarantee it. So take that mountain, and conquer it. God is going to help you overcome it, I believe it!

2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (NLT)

Hold on....

There are moments in life when I think, okay, I can breathe a sigh of relief and call it good. Then there are moments in life when utter chaos seems to be the norm. Well, I am entering a whole new season with my family right now and in the next couple months that caused me to have a moment of near breakdown last night.

If you know our story at all, well, the short of it is we are still coming out of a season of financial recovery. We are making slow but steady progress, not as much progress at this point as we would have liked, but progress none the less. We have been counseled, and shared similar struggles with dear friends who have been through a similar season, understanding and encouraging us because the reality is this recovery takes years. The past 18 months roughly, Ryan has been considering a number of job opportunities in both secular and religious sectors, but as God has directed us along the way, doors have closed one after another. As we prayed, sought advice from family and dear friends, we found ourselves seriously considering the timing may be just right for him to finally start back to school. As God would direct it, an opportunity opened up for Ryan to lead occasionally with a new church plant in the area, and over time Ryan was approached and offered a part time position with them. At roughly the same time, details started falling into place for Ryan as he re-applied to MSU, was accepted and registered for classes for the Fall of 2016 semester.

I am certain we can handle what is coming with Ryan starting back to college this Fall, but at the same time part of me is absolutely freaking out. I know God has got this, that it is absolutely His plan for us, but I have moments of sheer exasperation sometimes because I cannot handle not knowing it all. The lack of control, it is terrifying for me. And, as much as I love him, at times that look on Ryan’s face when I launch into a discussion about what is coming in the next month, 3 months, year ahead and how we need to plan for it---I simply want to shake him. Reality is we are different in our approach to this area in our marriage. So I have learned over the years to recognize that look on his face and dial it down, listen more than I talk, until we are ultimately on the same page with the understanding that God’s got this. God has it all well in His hands, and we do not need to know all of the details. I don’t like that, but I have learned as I have gotten older and as I have progressed in my faith walk, to release it and trust Him. Last night I didn’t do so well in this area.

I don’t trust well, and I don’t know very many people who do trust well. It seems to be something I find far more difficult as I get older and in our society. It was easy when we were kids because we had nothing to worry about. I’m thankful to know I have a Father God whom I can trust at all times. That has always been a constant in my life and will be one of the things I boast about most when it comes to sharing my faith with others. Even when life gets freakishly impossible, I can run to Him and know it’s okay. They key is to let go, release to Him. When life gets hard, my natural reaction is to hold tight. As a follower of Christ, my natural reaction should be to open my hands and let go, let go to the Father who holds tight to me. He never lets go, He never fails, He is always faithful. I know I can trust Him, and the reality is I am convinced now more than ever I need to go a step deeper into my time with Him.

Sometimes, in the middle of the night, and in the midst of my mind swirling with the unending list of things I must accomplish in my life day to day, it is quite simply enough to speak His name. Remember His name. Delight in His name. Jesus. My faithful friend, constant Companion, loving and compassionate Father, all powerful and mighty King. That’s when I can really let go. That’s when I can open my hands and accept the peace and assurance of the Holy Spirit. That’s when my heart is truly at ease, and sleep comes at last. The struggle within my humanity is real, but so is the Father’s deep love for me!

In the night, LORD, I remember your name,
that I may keep your law.
This has been my practice: I obey your precepts.
You are my portion, LORD; I have promised to obey your words.
(Psalm 119:55-57)

Fear to Faith.....

Be alert. Be on your guard. He is prowling, preying, watching for the first chance he gets to pounce. We are like sheep, we stray often and we are stubborn enough to keep going our own way in spite of the wisdom, the guidance we receive from Father God, from accountability partners, from trusted family and friends in our lives along the way.

When we are at our weakest, our God is certainly strongest!

He has already won, He has overcome for ALL our sin---do we truly get that? What I did in the past, what I do now, what I am going to do in the future, He knows and He chose to cover it ALL on the Cross. He knows us, from before we were known on this earth, and until well after we leave this earth and enter into Eternity with Him, He knows us best and created us for greater purpose than we can hardly imagine!

I have battled with depression and anxiety in my life, to the point I found myself doing serious spiritual battle in the darkness of my own bedroom after our second child was born. The enemy knew I was at a very weak place, the weakest point I think I’d been in years mentally, spiritually, physically, because we were facing some serious challenges with our son’s health during that season. On top of that, my husband was not happy with his job at the time, we weren’t communicating well and we certainly weren’t in sync in terms of our spiritual condition. Things were out of whack, that was a very unsettling season for us, and a number of factors could have easily broken our marriage, and our faith if we’d allowed it. I remember at some of the most tangible, frightening moments in that season, in the dark, finding for the first time in a long time the power of speaking the name of Jesus. As I balled up under the covers, literally fearful of what I felt was crouching in the corner of my bedroom, I was able to find release from that fearful grip I had allowed to take over my mind, my heart, my body. I don’t remember a specific scripture coming to my mind, but I do remember His name, “Jesus”, and whispering it over and over until I was able to finally fall asleep and be at rest. I returned to that place of power and rest, over and over again until I found I had walked through that fearful season and could call it “Overcome”. I can’t explain to you why it was not immediate; I know there are a lot of stories we read or hear about regarding immediate deliverance from difficult seasons like this one I experienced. For whatever reason, God allowed it to linger, and for me to truly experience over the course of several months, His abundant power and strength and love, in and through my faith in Him.

I have not personally dealt with addiction, a mental or physical condition/disorder, the catastrophic loss of a loved one, or any other experience that would have set my life on a potentially different course. All I know is what I have come to know through my faith in Father God. He is good and faithful, and He is here. He is patient, and because of that He sees the good for me that will often come out of allowing me to endure some extremely difficult life experiences. He knows precisely what is wrong with me and how to make it right—the key is knowing myself as fully as He does. It requires me to recognize that I ALWAYS have a CHOICE. This is where we all start chiming in with our unending list of excuses, the habits we have formed over time when we assume life will always be this hard for us because of one bad experience.

Wake up! Remind yourself right now, this very moment: I AM A CHILD OF GOD!

He split the seas for Moses and the children of Israel, and He will do the same for you! Why in the world don’t you take a chance to call on Him to do that for you and believe He will do it? Keep in mind it was many years, many years the people spent in Egypt praying for the Deliverer to come and rescue them, but He did! Just because He doesn’t rescue you right away, doesn’t mean He has forgotten you! He has purpose, far greater purpose for you than you realize, for the time He allows you to linger in a difficult season. So instead of cursing Him, lean into Him, determine to trust Him in spite of how you see it, and love Him far more deeply for the abundant purpose He has for you. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it, you aren’t meant to.

You are not God!

Faith is grown far deeper when we choose to trust Him without preconceived expectation born of our own understanding. Determine right now to dig your toes into the sands of unsettled. It is often precisely where God intends for you to be, and when you are truly ready for Him to do His greatest work in you.

I’m praying for you, right now, this very moment because I truly believe you are poised and ready for God to do something new and fresh in your life today. It starts with your choice to simply trust Him. Yes, it will be hard and it won’t feel natural, but the Holy Spirit will be your guide if you allow Him.

I did, I have, and I can tell you from personal experience it is worth it and He is faithful.

So bow down under God’s strong hand;
then when the time comes, God will lift you up.
Since God cares for you, let Him carry all your burdens and worries.
(1 Peter 5:6-7 The Voice Translation)


"I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name." Isaiah 45:3 NIV

I spent some time this past weekend in my quiet time, my prayer time, asking God to shed light on the places in my heart that I may have not wanted Him to see. My weaknesses. My inadequacies. My lacking of anything that would be fully and completely His. Questions I was left to ponder from two amazing Bible study/worship gatherings yesterday.

Am I cold, hot, or-God forbid-lukewarm in my faith?

Is my life a reflection of the hallowed name of my Father God-fully glorifying Him in all I say and do?

First truth that comes to mind clearly: I am a child of God. The day I accepted life in Christ, is the day I chose to live fully and completely in His beautiful purpose for my life. I didn’t get it at the age of 7, but as I have grown and matured in my faith, I have found strength, certainty, and confidence in the God who made me and saved me. So why on earth would I allow my life to become some lukewarm, watered down, stagnant, nasty version of myself? There is no greater desire within my heart than to see Christ glorified through me in my brief time on this earth. He has purpose for me even greater than I can fully imagine in this very moment.

“Hurt is inevitable, but misery is optional. How we respond to pits and pain is our choice.”(Girlfriends in God: What Will You Do With Your Pain? Mary Southerland, May 23, 2016)

I can either be propelled by the power of the Holy Spirit, or throw my hands up in defeat and fall into a hole of despair. I choose the first. It may require more of me than I think I’ve got to give, but I’ll grit my teeth and push on because it’s worth it for His Kingdom purpose.

Prayer is my greatest and most powerful tool I believe I have in my walk with Christ. I found the message last night to be particularly enlightening because of the expectation Father God has for me. I am convinced now more than ever, prayer is the key to unlocking a limitless level of connection with Him. When I choose more often to close my mouth, and instead open my ears and my heart to listen…..that’s when He speaks, that’s when He moves and my purpose becomes reality. I don’t think I am the only one who has a lot to learn still about simply listening, choosing to be still. I’m learning to embrace it far better as I get older.

There is treasure for each one of us, at the time God has chosen for us to receive it. That comes in different shapes and sizes for each one of us. What are you impatiently asking God for and what are you expecting of Him? Have you considered perhaps beginning your approach to Father God by simply thanking Him for being Who He is? Choose to refresh, reboot your time with Him today and make it your practice every day. He has beautiful purpose for you, but we cannot approach this with any other expectation than full and complete trust in Him and His perfect timing. Leave your humanity at the door, step into the presence of the Father with an open mind, open heart, and practice listening. He is ready to speak life abundant over you. It won’t come as you expect it, so lean into Him and He’ll move as He intends.

He knows you best, He loves you most, and His purpose for you is far beyond anything you can imagine.

Embracing the interruptions....

Some days are better than others. I count myself entirely blessed each and every day when I arrive home and can proclaim, “I survived!” Can you relate? We are all in a race to the finish line, busy all the time, places to go, people to see, goals to reach, lists to check off. So how do we handle a day when our schedule is interrupted? I didn’t blink at first when this happened yesterday. I picked up Chloe from preschool after work, and I needed to make a stop to pick up a prescription at the store, and then it happened. I saw them standing at the stop sign, a common place that many in our homeless community stand in hopes of some help as we all drive by. A middle aged man in a wheelchair, and a young woman probably late 20’s next to him. Not far behind them was an older model SUV vehicle, looked like it had been in a couple wrecks at best. I felt that all too familiar nudge from the Father in my heart as I pulled into the parking lot for us to go in the store, “They need your help…”. I didn’t hesitate. I told Chloe we were going into get a few things and would be going out to talk with them and give them some things to help them. She didn’t ask why, she just said as we walked into the store, “Yeah, Mom, let’s go and get them some snacks and help them!” As we walked in the store, Chloe helped me pick out a few items and then bag them up as we checked out and headed out to meet them. As we pulled around and parked close by, I prayed for Chloe and I as we prepared to meet these two precious people. I prayed for us to be safe, to be loving and to be ready to listen to their stories. As we approached them and visited with them, what a sweet conversation it became. It has been my experience more often than not, to hear such a positive and hopeful outlook from those I encounter on the streets of Springfield. They aren’t different from us, just simply trying to make a good life for themselves in this world. In our brief conversation, I learned they had been living out of that beat up SUV, along with her 5 children. Their greatest need? To find a place to sleep that night. As her son came over during our conversation, he listened intently as I asked them how I could be praying for them and let them know we care about them and God loves them deeply. After I prayed with them, she struggled to say thank you and had tears in her eyes, and he expressed thanks for both of them for what little I was able to provide. He said to me, “You know, we aren’t out here to take advantage of anybody, we are thankful for what anyone is willing to do to help us. We are just trying to make it like anybody else.” I watched as we got into our van, and the young woman’s older son was enjoying a can of the soup I’d given them, looked as if he’d not had much to eat that day the way he gulped it down. Chloe was quiet at that point, didn’t say much as we pulled away. We both waved as we passed them and they smiled and nodded. I think it is safe to say both of us felt thankful to have been part of God’s plan that night, to have helped someone in need.

We got home a short time later only for me to realize that I’d left my phone on silent, and missed my son’s text reminding me he had Scouts that night……and I had forgotten. I immediately apologized, and started to feel so bad about it. But then as I thought about it, I talked with my son and said how this very moment was a reminder to me that in fact what I perceived as an interruption in our day to day schedule, was actually a Divine appointment. If I had it to do again, I wouldn’t hesitate to do the same thing. Are we ready to obey His call upon our hearts even to the point of letting go of what was set on our schedule for that day? What’s the greater priority? I know what mine was, and I am so thankful I chose to go the direction I did.

We have opportunity every single day to act outside of our planned schedule, to step with all of our faith into a moment God appointed us for long before it occurred. I’m learning to expect these “interruptions” more, and I am thankful for the chance to love others as Jesus did when He was on this earth. I want to be more like Him, I don’t want to hesitate to help when He calls me to be available.

If you make sure that the hungry and oppressed have all that they need,
then your light will shine in the darkness,
And even your bleakest moments will be bright as a clear day.
The Eternal One will never leave you;
He will lead you in the way that you should go. (Isaiah 58:10-11 The Voice translation

Seeking "The One"

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33 NIV

Relationships. They are not easy. They are very, very complicated. I have gone through some ups and downs in my 44 years on this earth, and have found over the years God has given me a heart for mentoring young women into a healthier state of mind. Not for what they need in a relationship, but what they need in themselves. Where does your heart reside right now?

If you have a relationship with the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and have given your life to Him, then your heart is His. Your heart’s deepest longing is to follow Him.

That is where it starts.

I accepted Jesus at the tender age of 7. I didn’t fully grasp what it meant to be a child of God, a follower of Christ. As my life would roll on, I found myself returning to Him in rededication at the age of 12. My walk with him had not gone deep enough because I was still so very immature emotionally and spiritually. He spoke into my pre-teen heart and I listened, I fell into His arms and gave everything more fully and completely to Him.

In those years between junior high, high school and college I fell easily into the trap that I had to have a boyfriend to be truly happy. I allowed a chunk of my self-worth, my self-image to hinge upon finding “The One”. I discovered very quickly how disastrous it could be to launch into this without even asking God for His guidance. I let my heart, my own ideas, my clouded and emotional vision for a boyfriend to go before what God intended. I was impatient and selfish, and there wasn’t anything anyone could say or do to change my mind once I had my eyes set on someone. This mindset would ruin my heart and my mind over the course of those young years, but I am thankful to say because of the prayers, support and intervention of family and friends in my life, my journey would not end in defeat. God’s powerful purpose and love for me would restore me, and bring me into a healthier, happier outlook on life. Self-reliance, and outright defiance will only get you so far. I came back to the same truth that I learned at the age of 7, and 12, that God is higher, bigger, wiser, and stronger than I can fully understand. His ways are better, and His timing is best and perfect. The moment we attempt to take control of the wheel from Him, we better count on crashing. It won’t end well. I am thankful to say my story didn’t end with a crash. I felt at a certain point that I did crash, but the reality was I found when I reached the bottom, He was there, waiting to lift me up all along. He was with me, He never failed me, He knew me best and He knew what I was seeking was not best. If I could go back in time and teach, mentor, love and empower my younger self, I would in a heartbeat. I choose to take what I experienced, the heartbreak of it all, and use it to remind others that we have every reason to trust God’s timing. When I talk with young ladies who are struggling with their self-worth and self-image, there is a common thread that seems to hold them back from their freedom: what’s been done to them in the past and the weight that has on the vision for their future. I believe the greatest encouragement and empowerment I can give them is to teach them to immediately change their perspective!

See yourself through God’s eyes! If your filter is shaped by what you’ve experienced, what has hurt you, what happened to you in the past, then you are not seeing yourself through God’s eyes. You are seeing yourself through your eyes.

Seeing yourself through God’s eyes is not something that happens immediately, from my experience. I had to develop habits and methods that would constantly turn my mind, my heart back to a God perspective. I found solace and healing in the habits of exercise (it is amazing what a long walk with great tunes in my ears will do!) and yoga, meditation (both internal and external—there is power in repetition in the mind and spoken out loud!) and the accountability/mentoring partnerships of several people in my life. All of these habits are most powerful and effective because of my first and best habit: Prayer! This is my support system, with my Father God seated squarely at the top!

Habits are hard to break, so I encourage you today as you finish reading this to set up for yourself a new habit, a Holy Habit, that I promise will set you on a course for residing more perfectly and consistently in His presence. Your self-worth, your self-image is defined by the Creator, and the fact that He made you with magnificent and unique purpose!

Finding your purpose will mean choosing not to fall for something that seems to be so good at that moment in your life, and you’ve convinced yourself is the last chance for happiness. Only God knows that, and you are not God. Enough said. He knew your first moment before you entered this world, and He knows what your last moment will be. Trust Him because He is God. Trust Him, because for all your hopes, dreams, goals, visions for this life He will certainly provide.

Trust Him!

My reflection.....

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” Oswald Chambers

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).

Deliberate and selfless faith. What does this look like for me, for you? How do we develop it, attain it? I don’t have an answer beyond what you may already know. It is something we must choose daily, and it is something that will be developed and matured in us our entire lives. Two things resonated with me this past weekend from the messages I received in two worship gatherings.

First, the beautiful and difficult purpose of spiritual discipline. We have an opportunity daily, throughout our lives, to choose to be open and broken for the greater will and purpose of God. All too easy it is to get swept away by our grand dreams and desires, the emotion of feeling God is in something, when before we know it we realize we’ve taken off running with it before taking restful, quiet time to pour it out to the Father first. These are moments that can end very badly if we get too far ahead of ourselves. And the other side of that is for those of us who have had a number of difficult moments in life to the point that now we find ourselves running in the rat race to simply keep up with the daily demand of life. Get up, punch in, punch out, do it all over again the next day. At what point, regardless of the best or worst moments in life, are we consistently starting at the foot of the Cross and in the arms of our Father God? How quickly we get swept up in it, and forget what His Son did for us and the joy set before us to claim! What excuse can we possibly come up with to not live life more abundantly? There is no good excuse. Whatever reason you have for staying stuck in the muck of your life right now, you are choosing it. Nobody is forcing you to stay stuck. God has already won the victory, so claim it now and pull yourself out of that muck, that pit and don’t step back into it. Do you realize when you do, you are pretty much saying what Jesus did for you on that Cross wasn’t enough. Do you get that? Let that truth sink in to your mind and your heart. Now return to the starting point of it all, the moment you found Christ, and remind yourself you are free and nothing, nobody can change that! You have a choice every single day, for yourself, for your spouse, for your children, for your friends, for your coworkers, for strangers you pass in the world day to day, to be deliberate in your faith and let it push you toward a better way of living! Spiritual discipline isn’t just about reading the Word of God and praying daily. It is about living it, breathing it, absorbing it to the point that our lives are an unspoken reflection of Him to the world. It is not easy, and often our humanity will pull on us to get busy doing life, or become lazy and inconsistent. Nobody is perfect, but because of Christ I will push on to attain righteousness. Yes, I will push on.

Two, is the blessed necessity of spiritual formation. Out of spiritual discipline, we will find ourselves to be formed over time into the beautiful masterpiece God created us to be. We don’t do what we do in our time on this earth because we have to satisfy Him. He is entirely satisfied with us, His creation! Our truest, deepest purpose for making an effort daily to be like Christ, is to know that one day we will stand before Him and hopefully hear His words, “Well done….”. He has placed us on this earth, He left this earth and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, because He was already entirely satisfied with us and our capability to share the gospel and show His love. I don’t live my life as a follower of Christ to be able to say, “He is satisfied with me!” I live my life as a Christ follower to know in my heart, I’m doing what Christ created me for. Spiritual formation, has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him. When I connect with the Holy Spirit and His purpose in my life, every selfish motive I might have is dissolved.

Lord, let my focus, my words, my actions, every single day of this life be set on your perfect character even though I don’t fully understand your ways. I can’t fully grasp Your purpose for my life because I know and trust You are revealing it to me as You intend. I know I need to trust Your timing, because no matter how good my plans, my vision may be, Yours is best. I ask for your grace to flow and cover me, so that I can rest in not knowing what is coming and trust that You are enough.

His Answer...

The power of No. The answer we don’t want to hear. The finality of it. All too often when we ask God to answer our prayers, in the back of our minds and the seat of our hearts we hope He will grant our request and say “Yes!” So how do we begin then, our approach to God with our requests? Are we beginning by centering our hearts, our minds, our very being on what He intends for our good, no matter what His answer is? What He intends for our good is often not what we have in mind. Our entrance into prayer with our Father God can either be heavily weighted with emotion, or, breathing freely and expectantly open. Bring your emotion, your pain, your sorrow, and your joy, your bliss, your excitement and as you settle into His loving arms, let it all go and focus on simply being open and at peace in His perfect presence. Praise Him and thank Him for Who He is, for all He has done for you, then open your heart with confession of what is weighing you down. Accept His forgiveness, welcome His peaceful presence, and give Him praise for being a good, faithful, loving Father. As you pour out your requests to Him for your life, remind yourself that His good and perfect will is the foundation for everything you will ask of Him.

I can’t think of a better analogy right now than cheesecake, I know it’s odd, but stay with me. God’s will is that delicious, crumbly, buttery, golden crust. For me, my favorite part of any cheesecake is the crust. It has to be firm, not chewy. If it is not firm enough, if there isn’t the right ratio of butter to crumbs, then it can be too dry and sandy. If it has too much butter and not enough crumbs, it can be slightly greasy and chewy. God’s wisdom is the crumbs, God’s love is the butter. As the two combine to form the perfect crust, the foundation for our cheesecake is set. The rest of the cake will come together perfectly with the right balance of ingredients. Our lives are the cake. What we bring to the blend—our hopes, our dreams, our fears, our sorrows, our burdens—will come together into the right texture for that cake when we allow God to take it all and make it what He intends for good. As we approach the “Amen”, the icing, the decorations on the cheesecake are what signify He has made something good and perfect of our lives. We are working toward this end in our brief time on this earth, and we won’t be able to say we are perfect until we stand before our Father God in heaven one day. I haven’t likened myself, my life to the perfect cheesecake before but I think it is an interesting way to look at it! It is a lot of work, and it is an accomplishment I have enjoyed many times, because I love to bake. I have to imagine that our Father God feels this same sense of pride when He sees us stand firm, walk humbly, seek justice and shine His love for all the world to see.

When we are considering in our prayer time, our walk with God, whether He answers our requests with a “Yes” or “No”, we need to bear in mind that His intentions are always and only for our good. He is not just a loving God, He is a strong God, which means His “No” may not be one we welcome but it is His answer for our best. Even when Jesus asked Him that night in the garden as He prayed, for God to spare Him if at all possible, we watch the Father’s “No” unfold into what ultimately is the perfect gift for all of us. Jesus’ life for us, each one of us, what a gift! There is nothing more perfect that has been given. Even as the Father said “No” to His Son, Jesus knew that this was God the Father’s best for all of us.

How will you respond the next time God speaks an answer into your life that you aren’t prepared for? I’m learning as I experience His best for my life, I am far better, stronger, and wiser when I choose to accept it even if I don’t agree with it. He has a purpose, every single time, He knows my best. I trust Him more today than I did 5 years ago because I have chosen to believe He knows my best. His Word is true, His presence is constant, and He is Lord of my life. There is freedom there, for each of us, if we choose it.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5, 6 NASB).

The Power of One....

Today is not just another day. Today is a new day for me because of Christ in me. Each and every single day I have of this life is a blessing, a promise, a guarantee from my Father God that He has great purpose for me and He is just beginning to do a great work in my life today! What is powering you up today? Consider your options, you have two.

One: the power of the one who rules the world to push, pull, and drag you down!

Two: the Power of the One who rules your heart, mind, body and soul, to inspire, empower, encourage and embolden you up!

I think about how determined, dedicated, and passionate my son Bailey is about his love for music. He has found his niche, his greatest passion in music whether it is performing in the school play or with the school choir, in his school talent night or on stage at a coffee bar, and even as he is preparing for auditions at school and for the upcoming solo/ensemble and choir music festival competitions this Spring. He gets in his zone, sets aside his time and focus in his room to work for hours each week on perfecting what he is most passionate about. As a result, that focus inspires and empowers him to be the best Bailey he can be. It is inspiring to me to watch his focus, his attention to detail, his concern for knowing the material he has committed to learning and presenting it as best he can. I see that carry over in how he is growing, exploring his faith in Christ. From the time he first accepted Christ at the age of 5, so many questions coming out of the mind of this child! Sometimes I had to tell him I don’t know, but let’s explore that together and we will find the answers. As I watch his determined focus launch him into more study of the Word, not unlike his determination to study and perfect his musical skills, I am so proud, filled with admiration of the shape my son’s life is taking right before me.

I believe when we choose to tap into the Power of Christ in us, that our Father God is looking upon us with a similar pride, admiration. I like to think of it that way. I am thankful that in the moments when I fail Him, when I allow a particularly difficult moment in my day ruin me, that I can come right to Him for confession of my weakness, to request and accept His wonderful forgiveness, and walk forward into the grace He has for me. It is a beautiful thing, the Power of Christ in us and available to us each and every day. It is how it should begin and end, it is an overflow and ever flow that should rule our being each and every day.

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:2 NIV

Trust, Hope, Faith.....

The LORD is my strength, my shield from every danger. I trust in Him with all my heart.” (Psalm 28:7).

It is interesting to me the path we take in our trust walk with God. That’s what so much of our relationship with Christ depends upon doesn’t it? Not that his power is measured by anything we do, but the realization that having been given free will, we have a choice to fully trust Him or not. It is a simple but difficult truth we will struggle with our entire lives. I have been blessed to know and love some amazing people in my life who exude this amazing persona of boundless faith and trust in God. I confess there have been moments in my life when I found myself envious of those who seem to have a stronger faith, a better trust in God than I have. I have learned by getting to know the depth of their faith walk, that in fact they had to endure some significant pruning in their own lives to get to that place of deeper faith and significant trust in our Father God. We have so much to learn from one another, if we simply choose to stop fretting, yapping, groaning, lingering about what we don’t understand and don’t possess ourselves, and be willing to listen and learn.

I think at some point when we have accomplished much and gained a level of “success” that boosts our confidence in this life, humility fades and pride threatens to take over what was intended to be a place where only the Holy Spirit resides. We have to be cautious and wise as we walk through this life, to ensure even when we hit the mark and meet those goals we set for ourselves to accomplish, that we keep our priorities in line. He is first, He deserves first, He is intended to be first in every area of our lives. The desire to be the best, to hold that #1 spot in life, to get the trophies, the headlines, the notoriety, puff up the chest and beat it declaring, “I’ve done it! I am the winner! I am the best!”, well, gets you something, that’s for sure. At the end of that, what remains? Where do you truly stand? All that stuff is great, but I want my life to have far more eternal significance, don’t you?

When we commit to a relationship with Christ, we need to adopt a persona far more humble. There is not enough humility being exampled in our world today. There is a whole lot of pride being vomited upon us every day through social media, community and world events, politics, etc. I personally have grown far more concerned about how we are arming ourselves with the Truth of the Gospel, and seeking out the truth in what our country and our world needs, than getting on my soapbox about what upsets me most in the day’s latest events. I would much rather put my time and efforts to best use in prayer, than in blasting my opinion about something all over the internet. When God doesn’t respond to our prayers as we expect, are we quick to jump on social media and moan and groan about how bad we’ve got it?

Here’s reality: We are selfish and incredibly foolish, and we will often fail more than we succeed BUT God is faithful, God is good and His timing and purpose are absolutely perfect! You say you don’t understand, you are overwhelmed, you need this one thing so very badly and if it doesn’t work out by this date/time, well then, you’re done. There’s no hope. That’s the end of it. Guess what? That’s not the end of it and there is hope. There is always hope. Our hope is built on Jesus, and when we CHOOSE to wait, listen, pray……wait, listen, pray…..wait, listen, pray…….


What do we gain when we act impulsively and out of desperation? Is your problem solved? Not likely.

Our faith is built, our trust is built, our hope is built, on nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness….

I wholly lean on His name! Are you leaning WHOLLY on His name?

Tears Have Purpose

I’ve always been one to come to tears easily. Whether it is a heartbreaking love story, tragic humanitarian effort story, a beautifully written song, a familiar smell, or a phrase someone said in my life at a time I needed it most. When it hits me just right, I’m a freaking mess. We are talking ugly cry. This past week has been brutal for me for more reasons than one. Life has hit me just right on some things, and I think God prepared me for it to hit in worship last Sunday morning. I’ve sung the song many times, “Closer” by Bethel. I love that song, but it truly crushes me. It crushes me in a good way, please understand. It is one of the few songs I’ve come to know that brings me to a more intimate state of being with my Father God. A state of being that I hadn’t known in my walk with Christ for years I think. Ryan and I have been through some challenging life circumstance the last five years. I can look back over that time and see where God used His Word, the truth of His Word woven into songs like “Closer”, and the intimacy I found in Him when I gave in to His pressing upon my heart to lean more upon Him than I had before; it was precisely timed as He intended for me.

Last Sunday morning, I found myself in that familiar place again near the end of the song, and as I led out the final lines, my heart was lifted and the Spirit moved me in a way that took my voice as the tears flowed. I find at that moment, I have a choice to harden myself and simply focus on finishing the song without crying, or giving in to the impression the Spirit is making upon my heart. This was one of those times when I gave up my attempt to control, and let the Spirit flow through me. Words are reduced to a whisper, all I know to do is say “Thank you, Father!” because no matter how weak I perceive myself to be in that moment, He has provided a moment to remind me afresh how alive and new I am in Him. I find I am far more present in the Father than I was the moment I woke that morning. It is a vulnerability I can choose to embrace, or push away. It is a moment I choose to spread my arms wide and receive, rather than shut Him out and tough it out. It is precisely where He intends for me to be.

‘Could it be that crying is a form of worship? In my case, yes. Instead of running from it or trying to suppress it, this process has taught me to embrace it.
When we pay attention to the things that make us cry, they give us a rare glimpse into who we are at our core.
Sometimes tears mean beauty. They signal recognition. They connect the body with the soul in a way few things can.
Sometimes, crying is our only contribution when we have nothing else to give. For these reasons, tears are a gift.’

(Reflections: Moved to Tears-Finding Meaning in the Experiences that Make Us Cry, Mary Lauren Weimer,

Our Hope; Just Wait.....

Have courage, for the Eternal is all that I will need.
My soul boasts, “Hope in God; just wait.” (Lamentations 3:24 The Voice Translation)

Just wait. Something good is bound to happen. Just wait. Something new, something better is coming. Just wait. You have your whole life ahead of you. Just wait. Good things come to those who wait. Just wait. Patience is a virtue. Just wait.

Patience. Waiting. How many of us are thrilled about the unavoidable reality that we are going to be expected to wait for a great deal in this life? Not my cup of tea, and I imagine many of you would agree. My devotional this morning was very timely, needed. Not because I am in a hurry for something in particular to happen, some momentous revelation, life altering moment to finally occur. Ryan and I have been in a state of transition for several years now recovering from some challenges life has handed us, and finding restoration as we embrace some new opportunities in ministry. If you’ve been through a similar transition, then you know as well as we do that recovery does not occur overnight. It takes time. In the midst of the transition, we have to go through stages of healing not that different from a grieving process. We have learned to walk and sometime crawl through these stages. What is God teaching me through this portion of the journey?

Trust—not in any human being in my life, not in my husband, not in my family, not in my friends, not in my church, not in any one particular person. Full and complete trust in my great big God. In spite of what He has allowed to occur in our lives, He is calling to me, always available to me, longing to embrace me and delight in my willingness to simply trust Him through every moment.

Courage—a lot of failures are going to occur in this life. It is certain, I can count on it. I’m human, everyone I love and care for is human, and it is only a matter of time before someone gets hurt, upset, angry, etc. If we allow it, our humanity, our emotions, our reaction can rule our state of being and it can cause us to behave very badly. I have a choice, in any and every moment of my life to stop, breathe in and call upon the Holy Spirit within me, to behave in a manner that is indicative of my spiritual discipline and selfless intent. By making the choice to rise above myself, be better than my human nature, I find myself strengthened and resolved. I am able to walk through a difficult moment, and ultimately strengthened for what lies ahead. This is not easy, it is a choice that takes great courage.

Presence—There is a great power when we choose to step into His Presence rather than stomp our feet in our circumstances. When it seems everyone and everything around me has failed, He does not. He is always there. He is faithful, and He has placed people in my life who have come beside me at precisely the right time to help hold me up when I don’t have the ability to even stand on my own two feet. When we choose to be still, simply sit and listen, allow ourselves to sink deeply into His Presence; that is when true healing and restoration begins. When I find myself there, I recognize how foolish I have been, what I have missed when I allowed so much to bind me up and keep me from full and complete fellowship with Him.

I admit how broken I am in body and spirit,
but God is my strength, and He will be mine forever. (Psalm 73:26 The Voice Translation)

Transitions, changing seasons of life are happening constantly for us all. Good, bad, no matter the circumstances, God is near to us at all times. He knows us, loves us, is purposing us for great things each and every moment we choose to trust Him.

So what will your choice be today? What are you waiting for? Our hope is in Him. Let’s wait, with great expectation.

New year, New perspective....

1 Peter 5:8 … disciplined and stay on guard. Your enemy the devil is prowling around outside like a roaring lion, just waiting and hoping for the chance to devour someone.

Matthew 6:33 Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and then all these things will be given to you too.

How are we doing this New Year? How is our perspective? How are we approaching each day in this new season God has granted to each of us? Two precious gifts God has given us:

1. God’s Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ
2. Life

Are we fully aware of how fortunate each one of us truly is? If you stop and make a list of what you have, what you possess, what you own, what you can call yours, I am not sure any one of us really has anything to complain about. What if we took a different look at our lives and instead of doing the typical list of Good and Bad, we simply and purposefully chose to focus on what matters most and nothing else?

The choice to focus on what matters most, to walk boldly, courageously into each day of this life with no thought for the things that threaten to distract us makes an enormous difference in everything else that follows. I believe by making this simple switch in our focus, we can expect to see profound and life-changing movement in our lives. Think about it: When we get bent out of shape because of our life circumstances, what we are dealing with on any given day that is just plain crap, the stuff that derails us and leaves us doing more grumbling, griping and complaining than thanksgiving and praise…..what does it get us? What benefit is that to us in any way, shape, or form? None. Zero. Zip. Blah. Why are we doing this to ourselves?!

Did you read the scriptures at the beginning of this blog post? The enemy. He is crafty, creative, sneaky, calculating, strategic, and ready to pounce at our weakest and most vulnerable moments. And sometimes his greatest victory in your life is when you find yourself stuck day in and day out in the same muck, monotonous misery, and mediocrity. So consider right now, how much time in your life, days, months, years, have you allowed the enemy to devour? How often have you allowed him to win a victory he doesn’t deserve nor truly has? We can start playing the blame game here, listing off all the things that are to blame for our miserable state of being and why we are stuck in it, but that will only give me the opportunity to lovingly and gently point out to you what was stated in the beginning of this blog post. Where is your focus? Stop it and consider right now, this very moment, you are blessed. You have a Savior, who loves you, who has purposed you for so much good if you give Him a chance to use you fully. It doesn’t mean you’ll snap into this blissful state of no worry, no fear, no doubt, BUT it does mean you’ll be in a state of mind, body and spirit to better handle those challenges when they come.

You have a choice, you always have a choice. By choosing to improve your perspective, you will find your way to making every tragedy a triumph, every upheaval an uprising, victory is yours! I cannot tell you what a difference it makes to hold tight to the One who holds your life in His hands. It is hard to put into words, the ability to experience freedom, peace, and joy when we make the deliberate, courageous choice to live in a Jesus perspective. He endured the worst, so we can live our best! There is too much at stake as our world continues to spiral out of control. What an opportunity we have, what we will miss, if we live our lives in any other way that 100% devoted to our great big God!

He intends for us to live fully and purposefully in spite of how difficult life is. This is our greatest form of witness to the world around us. Let’s not miss it. Let’s give God the victory, instead of the other guy because ultimately we know who wins, who already won, who will win when our days come to an end.

Glory to God, forever!

my Ebenezer...

“…Thus far the Lord has helped us.”-1 Samuel 7:12 There are moments in my life when I look back and can see how God in His perfect yet my...