Saturday, October 14, 2017

Uncharted Waters Part 1: Embarkation|A Mother’s Journey from Death to Life #PILAM #PregnancyandInfantLossAwareness

Months of planning for my first short-term mission trip to Ukraine were working out perfectly. The financial support came in. I had a babysitter for my two-year-old daughter. My husband would take some time off to visit family so he wouldn’t miss me so much.
There was only one thing holding me back.
I was pregnant.
Read more here.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

A Timeless Dream and Reality

Last night, I had a dream of another time.

In the land, both far and wide, temples cast shadows over its citizens, shrouding them in the cold grip of fear. The expressionless stares of the temple gods and goddesses only brought confusion and trepidation in my young heart.

Alone in the pale moonlight, my hands were bound in front of me as I huddled next to a temple pillar. My head throbbed. One of the sleeves of my tunic hung off my shoulder, revealing finger-sized bruises underneath.

The thought occurred to pray. But to which god?

Each situation dictated the proper call to a prescribed deity.

Before succumbing to a typical rote prayer to one of the statues in the plethora of temples, I paused. A cloud passed by and the moon shone through the lattice on the temple wall. The bind that held my wrists glowed as if with magic.

Was I was being punished by the mercurial whims of the intemperate gods to whom one must pay continual homage?

A flush of shame warmed my cheeks as all the ways I had failed crept into my mind. Why would any of the gods help me now?

Each storyteller in my city shared a different version of the gods' exploits, usually with the ulterior motive of a coin in the coffer for the temple priests ... most likely to use on the nightly band of prostitutes that roamed the streets.

Did my monetary sacrifice ever amount to anything but their pleasure at my expense?

If in my abduction, I was bound to be one of those enslaved women, I'd rather die.

I needed God, The Real God, The One Whom Cannot Be Seen, to have mercy on me. To save me.

I clasped my hands together.

It took more faith to believe in the God that cannot be seen. Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and whispered my plea.

Then I awoke and found myself in my own bed in present day America.

The Greek gods and goddesses have passed away in the sands of time. In our educated, prosperous, sensible country, we have no such need for deities.

Or do we?

It may be that we turn to new idols. Ones that flicker and dance on the screens of our televisions and iPhones. Will they make us happy? Will they show us what to do? Will they save us?

The painted up masks of these people show health, wealth, and happiness, but the coins we stuff into the coffers of TV media moguls or the Pantheon of social media we trust in, prove a false hope. Because they're only human like us.

There is a God whom we cannot see. I've seen Him. Not with my eyes, but in my changing heart, thoughts, and deeds.

I've seen Him work even the most terrible situation for good (Romans 8:28).

This God, the One revealed in the pages of the Bible, is timeless. He is gracious, compassionate and good. And He wants to have a relationship with us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

If we would but let go of our false gods and turn to Him in our time of need. He'll be there. He's been there for me. Every. Single. Time.

* Credit: Temple in Athens  courtesy of Getty images

Sunday, April 9, 2017

He Knew Me {An Easter Poem}

He knew me.
I mean really knew me.
Knew everything that I had done
Or failed to do.
Yet, I found myself wrapped
In His warm embrace.
I closed my eyes and rested,
Being filled up with His love.
He covered my tattered rags
With His woolen robe,
The color of blood.
I breathed in his scent.
Fresh and woodsy.
And my skin had changed.
It was clean.
Cleaner than if I’d bathed
In a cool mountain spring.

His skin was covered
In what used to cover mine.
This thick oily substance,
Black as tar.
His stride was determined.
He didn’t turn back.
A cypress tree blocked my view.
He was gone.

I scanned the horizon.
But all I could see
Were the misty mountains 
Surrounding this lonely valley.

In the distance,
The clouds parted to reveal
The sin-stained man
(Though not His sin but mine)
Climbing up a mountain.

On the peak stood a lone tree
With two branches,
One on each side.
I rubbed my eyes.
It wasn’t a tree.
And those weren't branches
But a cross.

Dark clouds rolled in,
A shroud covering the valley.
Lightening crashed.
I pulled the robe tighter. 
And beheld the sin-stained man
Being fastened to the cross.
Streams of red flowed down
From his outstretched hands.
Hands that once held me.

He cried out.
Then, fell limp.
No. Don’t die.
I. love. You.

The sky dimmed until black.
Dark as the stain
That once covered me.
The sin that He took upon Himself.

I huddled against a nearby rock,
Trembling and weeping.
Exhaustion overtook me.

When I awoke, there was a light.
But not the sun.
From within the mountain.
A circle of light,
 Bursting forth.

Within the circle,
A silhouette.
He was alive.
I cried out
But not from sorrow.
My Savior, my King.
Please come back.
Please take me home.

The sun peeked over the horizon.
Don’t leave me.
I don’t want to be alone.

A voice.
Not outside but within.
Deep in my heart.
“You’ll never be alone again.
I will come back.
You are mine.
And, you have work to do.”

"He made Him Who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might have the righteousness of God in Him."
2 Corinthians 5:21

Monday, March 27, 2017

April Fool's Anniversary

April Fool's Day, 1995.
What a day to first meet.
Was it love at first sight?
Was his heart my destiny?

Turns out, he had prayed.
To meet the girl of his dreams.
Before the night we met
Two foolish teens.

Not knowing what
The future would bring
We sat side-by-side
At a Denny's.

One dressed in grunge
The other black as night
With hair blazing red
A torch of light.

Drawn to his warmth
There at his side
Nothing was hidden
Our words intertwined.

Five years of waiting
Room to grow up
To spread out our wings
Before tying the knot.

Now here we are
Twenty-two years
Together as One
In life's joys and fears.

Having the same
Faith, Hope, and Love
Though we are weak
Made strong from above.

And in the center
In each triumph and fall
Christ Jesus our Lord
Redeemer of it all.

Whether foolish or wise
Our hands intertwine
Our heads bow each night
Before we turn out the light.

Blessed remembrance
The day we first met
Two middle-agers
Who've got room to grow yet.

Letting life slow down
Being less driven
Enjoying our family now
The children we've been given.

Looking forward to the next
Twenty-two years (and more)
With my love 
Who was worth waiting for.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Whenever I feel Afraid: 5 Ways to Deal With Anxiety

The bathroom is one of the scariest places for my five-year-old. I'm not sure if it is the enclosed space, the sounds that echo off the walls, or the loud flush, but she hates to go alone.

I'd love for her to get over her fears. But, I'm still learning to overcome mine.

In the middle of the night I'm awakened by what sounds like an explosion outside. My heart races. I breathe and pray. My anxiety soon lessens.

Rain patters on the window. The "explosion" was only thunder.

Underneath the bedroom door, a light shines. Someone is up.

When I open the door, my fifteen-year-old is pacing the living room.

"Are you okay?"

She stops pacing. "I can't sleep. My heart is beating so hard."

"Mine is, too."

After more prayers with my teenager, I switch off the light to her room and head to my own bedroom.

Although I'm pushing forty, fear seizes me the same way it hits my children.

It's cute when my five-year-old dances around the house singing, "Whenever I Feel Afraid" from the classic musical, The King and I. 

The words say,
While shivering in my shoes, I strike a careless pose, and whistle a happy tune, so no one ever knows I'm afraid. The result of this deception is very strange to tell, for when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.
It's cute, but it's not true.

We can't just whistle our fears away or pretend they don't exist.

The problem with the mentality of convincing ourselves, even deceiving ourselves that there is nothing to fear, is not living in the reality of a fallen world.

Fear is normal.  It is a part of our varied collection of emotions. It's there to alert us that something is dangerous, so that we can be wise and be safe.

All I have to do is turn on the news or scroll down the latest tweets and it's easy to see that there are real dangers out there.

Okay, so don't watch the news and stay off twitter.

Yesterday, my children witnessed an accident outside the window of our church.

Okay, so don't leave the house.

Boxing ourselves in and trying to avoid our fears only serves to amplify them.

We would only make ourselves even less equipped to deal with the day-to-day stressors.

I've found being prepared to face my fears is a game changer.

An on-going battle plan to cope with life's hardships makes them less overwhelming.

Jesus said,
"The truth will set you free (John 8:32)."
He also said,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)." 
He wasn't merely talking about facing your fears, He was talking about knowing The Truth, who will set you free.

Knowing Him.

When we know him, all our fears are stripped away because we know Immanuel, The-God-Who-Is-With-Us and never lets us go. He's right beside us. Closer than the cold sweat on our brow. Closer than the tightening of our gut. Closer than the heart pounding in our chest.

He is there.

When we know Him, we can know He hears us. We can talk our fears out and ask for courage to face them. This brings me to the five ways I've discovered to deal with overwhelming fear.

1. Pray.

This is our first line of defense when facing our fears. We can't deal with them alone, and we don't have to. We have our Father in heaven, the Son who saved us, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us. Our Triune God longs to hear our prayers. He wants to help us, if we would only realize our need and ask.

2. Read God's Holy Inspired Word.

There is no other book like the Bible. It is living, active and speaks to our very soul. Giving us courage. Helping us to know what to do and when to do it. The Psalms help give voice to my fears. How many Psalms are there about deliverance? I've lost count. Proverbs helps me to know what to do. And, the rest of the books of the Bible are there to teach, exhort, and encourage me. Daily Bible reading is crucial to overcoming fear.

3. Memorize Key Verses.

Hiding God's Word in our heart, gives us the scaffolding we need to go higher than our fears. When we have the truth within, then the fears without can't crush us. The truth is stronger than our fears. When we turn to Jesus and trust in His truth, the battle is already won.

4. Journal.

Anxiety sometimes stems from being overwhelmed with too much information. Jotting down the swirling thoughts helps to organize, rationalize and prioritize the things we need to deal with. Along with journaling, listing can be helpful. After our To Do Lists, we can chart Thankfulness Lists, and Blessings Lists. These can remind us that there's more to life than the hard stuff.

5. Share.

Be with others who know Jesus. Share your fears and ask them to pray for your needs. Rely on others who have shared their stories. Read books and blogs by those who have learned how to face their fears in faith.

Fears don't have to overwhelm us because we belong to One who faced the fear of excruciating pain, the fear of being alone, and the fear of death itself, all to save us. His name is Jesus and He wants to calm the storm of our fears. When we focus on Him, our hearts can finally rest.

Friday, December 30, 2016

After 2016: How to Have a Happy 2017

"Happy New Year!" I want to be able to genuinely say it. But, something has to be said about 2016.

The elections, Aleppo, even terrorist attacks in our beloved city of Orlando and throughout the world have rocked us, threatening to tear many of us apart. In some ways, they already have.

How does one heal after such a tragic, divisive year?

When will the darkness in the world, the trauma, the fear of the next headline end?

As with any revival, it begins with one.

One person starting that rippling affect, creating a wake for a wake up call to those in the global Christian church.

We need revival.

We need to wake up and stop getting caught up in the lesser things.

Those things don't matter.

Only one thing matters. Did you love?

"We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19)."

If we truly believed this, we'd live it. We'd cross that divide and love the people feeling unloved right now. We'd lower ourselves to lift others up. We'd be that person to start revival in our midst.

And, there's no way we can do it on our own. "On our own" is what got us into this mess.

Only the One who made us clean can wash, renew, and heal our families, our communities, our nation, and our world.

Will we rise up? Will we stand in the gap to close the very gap that keeps us apart? Will we humble ourselves and pray?

Because there's no other way, 2017 is going to be brighter than if we first go to the cross.

We must seek the gentle face of Christ, the one who bears the scars on His brow from the thorny crown He took for us. Repent. Forgive as we have been forgiven. Live for His Kingdom instead of for our own.

Then our light, which is really His Light will shine in the darkness and no one, no, not anything can quench that Light.

It goes on and on forever.

So, here's to 2017 and to a new us. A renewed, revived, repentant us. Walking hand-in-hand let us live in the Spirit of Christ and not after the gratifying, preserving and exalting self. In one word, walk. And, keep on walking with Him by faith. One step at a time, we can make a brighter tomorrow.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

When it's NOT Cancer: Celebrating the Sabbath

SO many things in life get put on hold when you think you might have cancer.

It's like Gandalf from Lord of the Rings plunked his staff right in front of all my planning about anything beyond the here and now and said, "You shall not pass!"

After the biopsy, survival mode kicked in. For me, that means making lists: writing down everything that needs to be done if I'm out-of-commission and delegating all these responsibilities to my husband and children.

Laundry, check. Dishes, check. Maintaining a clean house, check. Freezer stocked with frozen pizzas, check!

They'll be all right.

If I'm sick, they'll make due.

After the surgical biopsy, I couldn't do anything strenuous, so I had to let everyone else take care of the business of running our home while I recovered.

With more household tasks being done by others, I experienced a real Sabbath, a time to just rest and focus on spending time with each of my children.

And, I thought, I should live like this normally. My life is too rushed. From sun up to sun down, I go from job to job without stopping enough to be with the people I love.

But, then. This week. The results came in.

It's benign. I'm cancer-free! Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

We've been experiencing a drought in central Florida. The dry, brittle grass, the languishing trees and flowers wither while waiting for the clouds to let down it's waters. On Tuesday, the day of my doctor appointment, the rains came and soaked the parched earth.

I've always associated rain as a message from God.

Some say rain is a bad thing. Especially if you're having an outdoor party. But, when there's a drought, rain is a blessing. There's life, growth, and eventually fruit.

If the winter of life threatening sickness is not coming, what does that mean? Why all this preparation? Shall I go back to living life in a rush? And, in the whirlwind, truly miss life?

In my blur of busyness, I'm striving to keep my little world in order. To stay on top of the mountains of laundry. To keep the towering stacks of dishes from crashing down. But, am I going too far?

Will I rest in this downpour of grace and soak it in, letting it change me and fill me up to overflow with the loving-kindness of God?

In this season, I'm taking off the proverbial super-housekeeper cape, and letting things go a bit for just a little while. I need to. To gain balance and perspective. It's not my job to save the world. I can trust Jesus already has and will. 

I'm thankful that it's not cancer, but more than that I'm thankful to the Lord for giving me a fresh perspective on making time for those whom He's given me to love.

May there be life, growth and the fruit that comes from building a life on following Him while building into the lives of others.


May I truly experience a Sabbath this winter as I bask in the grace of our Lord.

"I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit...I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing." (John 15:1-5)