Wednesday, May 11, 2016

To Live A Flourishing Life

This week I'm grateful for a bed that seems to wrap it's arms around me when I'm finally able to free-fall into it.

I'm grateful for the shower that pours over me in the dark hours of dawn on each new day.

I'm grateful for a husband that is living this wild journey right alongside me.

I'm grateful for my daughters who prove that God extends lavish grace. And these seven grandkids? It is beyond me how life can be this good.

Can you stand one quote from a five-year-old?  She was singing and paused to tell me this, "I love you more than 79 and 2000 pieces of french toast."

Friends, that's a lot of love.

It's a season of upheaval and I'm trying to embrace the complete shakeout of these days without allowing my soul to be crushed under the hustle of it.

Recently I spoke on: "Fierce Flourishing."

For weeks, I prepared.

The irony isn't lost on me that "flourish" is my One Word for 2016 .

I gathered enough material to file a college level dissertation with my research and findings.

Complete with metaphors, analogies, quotes, verses and personal stories.

The speaking was of course, uncomfortable in its own ways, but I felt like I was able to share something meaningful from my heart.

As it usually works in things like this, I was learning more than I could share.

And one of my main takeaways is this: to flourish is a soulish thing.

Farming and ranching were once the biggest demands in my life, so naturally that picture of planting and tending and cultivating is so applicable to illustrate flourishing.

Flourishing plants have deep strong root systems that provide support and help withstand the winds and storms.

And the goal is to plant with the hope of the long view in mind.

We plant with the expectancy of a harvest.

I emphasized the need to learn a wise "Yes," but perhaps even more important to learn a firm, "No."

Because busyness can be a religion that keeps us from the deeper things of flourishing.

Flourishing isn't a point that we arrive, it is the way we travel. 

And as I fell into bed at the end of another exhausting day, I had to ask myself the hard question, "Am I really living a life that cultivates flourishing?"

I just talked to a group of women about it, but for months, I've felt like I need to do some soul-tending and pruning myself.

It is important to me to love well, forgive quickly, remain, stay, and continue in the things I've been given to do. Of all people, I should be able to live within the boundaries of a day, because our days have a limited capacity with expiration dates.

My level of busy has weakened my level of abiding.

Carl Sandburg was speaking about the impact of the life of Abraham Lincoln when he said this: "A tree is best measured after it has fallen. That is when we are able to capture the breadth and length and width of its girth. The rings of life experience speak volumes to our friends and family. They give us proof of a flourishing tree or one that was suffering through rot and disease. A flourishing tree impacts generations; the rotting tree barely survives its own life span."

I don't want to barely survive my own life span, I want my life to be a flourishing tree that impacts generations to come. Yet for some time, I've been surviving instead of thriving.

If 2016 is the year that I'm to embrace a deeper life of flourishing, I'm going to have to move past just surviving.


I've decided to rest from writing on the blog for a time.

My thought is to take the summer off. In five years I haven't taken a break here, so it seems good to quiet the noise in my head. I'm not sure what this break will look like, but I'm excited to just freefall into it along with all the other things going on.

I don't want to let anyone down. I adore you all. Your messages, e-mails, and comments are priceless to me. I value each one of you so deeply.

"I love you more than 79 and 2000 pieces of french toast."

If I could encourage you with one thing for your days ahead.... I'd tell you to spend more time with Jesus. That's what I hope to do.

Monday, May 2, 2016

More Than, "Just A Mom"

Of  course, she never mentioned it.

Considering the fact that I knew her my entire life it seems like it might have come up in just one conversation.

When my mom was seventeen years old and a senior in high school she was given an award by a major metropolitan newspaper for her writing. She received a certificate of achievement and a trip to the big city.

In the picture that was published of my mom in the newspaper, her hair was dark and styled, the lipstick appears to be deep red and her smile was so big her eyes were squinted shut.

She wore a look of pure joy and half-embarrassment.

It gave me a glimpse of the young woman who would someday be my mom.

That was almost the only notoriety she ever received.

A year later she was getting ready to be a first-time mom. And before it was over she had four kids of her own and after us, she was handed two others who needed the strength and stability her arms and home could offer.

Mostly we were an ungrateful lot.

Especially me.

While other kids I knew had moms with careers, big vacations, and the newest cars, my mom was “just a mom.”

Her degree was in early childhood development and her platform was an old house she made into a home.

She got her masters in making hamburger 200 easy ways, removing Kool-Aid stains from the laminate flooring and finding mismatched socks.

She lived in a day when there were no, zero-spill sippy cups.

No internet to google symptoms.

No disposable diapers.

Honestly, how did she survive?

But day after unending day, she climbed the mountain of laundry, stood at the podium of her stove and served another round of handcrafted macaroni and cheese to her yawning audience of four.

No one applauded her when she got up in the night with another sick child, even when she was sick too.

None of us complimented her for all the cupcakes she sent into classrooms, the hours spent helping us with homework, or the miles she put on the car to deliver us to our next event.

There were no rave reviews written for the 30,000 plus meals she served up over the 30 years of having extra people around to feed.

It never occurred to me that she may have had ideas what life could be like if she had pursued her own dreams or developed her own talents.

In a culture that tells women they owe it to themselves to follow their dreams, my mom thought it was better to help us follow ours.

Her eulogy is one of a servant and a super-heroine.

She was a peacemaker and she championed the cause of the hurting and the neglected.

It took me half a century to realize much of what it cost her.

In fact, I’m still unwrapping the sacredness of having a mom like her.

In another time, she probably would have had a mommy blog or wrote about living on a large acreage or even hosted a food blog.

She could have been the editor for a website because she had the untapped skill set for it.

She may have thought her calling was small or insignificant in the whole scope of things.

I know now that it was a thankless job and she earned every gray hair on her hallowed head.

Somehow I just thought she would always be sitting there in her favorite chair with her glasses slipped down on the end of her nose, weaving the needle and thread in and out and in and out on the design on her latest project.

She always said she made her quilts with love.

Actually, she weaved that truth into most of what she did... living her life with love which is the test of all true religion.

I didn’t realize it was a gift to be able to drop in for breakfast at eight in the morning always served with Folgers coffee. Or how lunch was served at noon and supper was always ready at five.

She lived the gospel in the unseen things of honoring her husband and sacrificing for her children in places that only God really knows the depth of.

I wonder if she ever speculated what life, “could have been,” if she was more than “just a mom.”

I wonder how many days she thought her job was too mundane or her accomplishments too small.

I wonder if she ever just wanted to throw in the spaghetti encrusted towel and just run away.

Of all things she could have done with her life, I never, not one time, heard her speak of regrets.

She did say with candor that on hard days, her own mom reminded her, “….in this family we don’t give our kids away.” And once she said that maybe after the kids were grown she’d go back to school.

By the time, there was no one to take care of she’d become content to write her legacy onto the lives of others.

Instead of being a published author, she wrote her life of love in our hearts.

Not only am I still realizing the gift of her, I’m still unwrapping the sacred gift of being a mom myself.

It is the single best thing that ever happened to me.

Three times.

Before motherhood, my heart was too small, too self-focused. Something about dealing with small humans revealed deep and messy issues of my own and is a constant reminder how my flesh wants to rule the world. At least my world.

Being a mom must be in part, God’s way of pushing us to love others more than we love ourselves.

If you are reading this, I hope you will be grateful for the mom who gave you life.

If you are a mom I pray you can embrace the divine beauty of your holy calling.

And no matter what your life may look like, keep living the gospel by loving others and doing the things that no one sees.

It matters.

Our greatest accomplishments aren't actually accomplishments, but what we do in love.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Believing So We Can See

Even the invisible airwaves couldn't hide the pain and disappointment hanging in the silence. My question to her wasn't intended to uncap the well of sorrow she had been pressing down.  

When her words came, so did the tears. 

"It wasn't supposed to end up like this," she half-whispered.

Her story may have unique characters and villains, but the narrative had a familiar ring to it. 

The pen of suffering written on lives through trials, disappointments, and loss can leave our stories hard to keep living. 

I have a file that contains letters and printed e-mails of brave and precious souls who dared to put into words their deepest disappointments and life altering pain. 

They tell of husbands who walked out, wives who bolted, children who rebelled and babies who died.

There are typed, tragic accounts of how drug abuse forever altered their loved one.... or how drug abuse altered them.

How mental illness stole the person they once knew, jobs ended, homes were repossessed and the life-long savings disappeared.  

And cancer. So much cancer.

What would we do if for one day –just one– the news reporters had only good news to report? 

That's just not the world we live in. 

We live in a world where people all around us are wondering how to take one more step forward.

It was in a particularly difficult season, one that involved a very close relationship, when I found myself feeling hopeless. 

The accusing voice of failure replayed a familiar chorus in my head, "This. Is. All. Your. Fault." 

For months, I wavered somewhere between anger at this person's choices, while knowing the reality of my own flaws and quite honestly being angry at God. After all, He was the One who allowed the core circumstances to happen in our life.

Driving alone down a long portion of highway I began to verbalize the pain. Perhaps for the first time, I wasn't trying to be brave or keep up appearances or control the situation. I wasn't even being polite toward God.

Gratefully we serve a King who isn't afraid of the raw conversations. He isn't put off by the ugly sobbing or when we dare to wrestle with Him about our deepest disappointments and hurt.

My grappling with Him in the difficulty didn't change His God-ness or His love for me. In fact, I think it was more clearly revealed.

I remember the stretch of highway I was driving on. I remember the words I said. And I remember the struggle and the ultimate releasing it all to God in a small burst of flickering faith.

The size of a small seed of faith.

I had finally reached a place of peace—a place of release– a place of knowing God would have to do the work in my heart and in those I loved.

I could move forward in confidence that He was in control.

Something about that place, those moments, were a turning point for me.

Even though what I could see had not changed, I felt like something  was settled.

That's how it was for Jacob.

He found himself alone, afraid and powerless as he was about to face his brother who had vowed to kill him years before.

It was a crossroads of where he had been and where he was going.

And there He wrestled with God.

In that encounter, some things were settled. God blessed him and changed his name.

Jacob the deceiver, became Israel the God-wrestler. 

And from that day forward Israel walked with a limp.

People who walk with a limp have my respect.

The things in life that didn't turn out like we hoped? Those are the things that help us lean on Jesus instead of ourselves.

No matter what our income, age, or credentials, at some point, we will have to embrace our powerlessness.

On the happy day, we come to the end of ourselves and our resources and all the trying to fix that husband, child, boss, or 10,000 other issues...... we are left with two choices.

We can focus on our problems or we can focus on the Problem Solver.

We can stare at the mountains or at the Mountian Mover.

We can run away or run toward.

We can worry or we can worship.

Worship is the thing that shows us Israel had more than a name change in the wrestling.

In Genesis 33:20 it says this: 
Then he built an altar there and named it El-Elohe-Israel (Mighty Is the God of Israel).

After the wrestling? God was no longer a God, or a religion passed down. Nope. He became the Mighty God of Israel.  

God moved past vague and impersonal to very personal. 

The. Mighty. God. of. Israel.

In my own God-story there have been, and will be many seasons of learning and trusting and growing in my faith. 

Despite the circumstances that surrounded me, I settled the issue of Who had the power to do something about them.

I settled the issue of  Who I would serve no matter what the outcome. 

The. Mighty. God. of. Rhonda.

And the Lord has not let me down. 

The unending, uncomfortable, unpopular paradox is that we do learn through pain. 

Dear Fellow Limper,

You who are pressed down under the circumstances that did not turn out like you'd hoped.

To the abandoned, the hurt, and all who feel forgotten, passed over and taken advantage of.

For every person that has suffered, is suffering... deep loss and pain and various afflictions.

Don't focus on what you can see.

Believe that the Lord is mighty and working on your behalf.

Don't settle for going to church or going through the motions or merely listening to someone else talk about faith.  

Believe that you can know personally, "the Mighty God of ____________." (Fill in your name.)

Some things really do have to be believed, before our eyes can be opened to see.

With all my love,

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Journaling The Journey

Some people have vast collections of valuable items.

I collect colored pens, pencils, and markers.

I may or may not have purchased a pen because it claimed to be, “...the best writing pen in the world.”

I own –blank– leather-bound journals in every size, color, and fancy functionality.

So I've had to admit I like to collect the tools of journaling more than I like the actual work of journaling.

The art of journaling is sprinkled across the vastly visual world of social media. Designs full of detail, color, and imagery.




These women not only journal but they make each entry a creative masterpiece. It causes me to sigh a bit ...and to feel guilty. Guilty that I can't even consistently take a pen to hand-scrawl an entry onto paper.

Simple. Just words on a page.

No flowers, swirly-gigs or even fabulous freehand stick people.

I've read plenty on how and why journaling should be part of my life.

And I've seen first hand a simple and effective way to journal through my friend and accountability partner. She uses a common, black, wide-ruled, composition notebook. Her handwriting is neat, and thoughts precisely recorded. The size makes it easy to carry the journal with her everywhere she goes and when the last page is filled she closes it and grabs a new one. Easy.

The beauty of this practice in her life is so evident. She has one of the most honest and deep walks with Jesus, that I've personally witnessed.

However, the system that worked for her just did not seem to work for me.

Still, I could see journaling as a spiritual discipline and I wanted the benefits that must come along with doing it.

Certainly I've tried repeatedly to succeed at journaling and have drawers full of journals to prove it. Pages partially filled with months of silence between entries. It makes me wonder now, what work God was doing in my life that I missed in those long silent gaps.

Twenty years, this has been my experience. Try. Fail. Guilt. Repeat.

Until about nine months ago. That's when a small group of beautiful women came together and decided to do a 40-day prayer challenge with some specific goals in mind.

Someone suggested that we begin a new journal for the challenge. Goodness knows I had a few empty ones to choose from. In fact, I had enough that I brought a stack of them to offer anyone who was interested.

From the beginning, I assumed this would be like so many other failed attempts. I'd begin strong and end with empty pages to record my failure.

Perhaps it was the accountability (though no one has ever seen my pages) but for those forty days, I heart-bled words and prayers and worship with ink between faint lines.

At the end of that 40-day challenge, the movie War Room came out. I'm so in love everything about that movie. At that time, Priscilla Shirer, who starred in War Room, came out with her book, Fervent.

With the focus on strategically praying for important areas in my life and those I love, I found so much that I wanted to record in my journal.

In fact, I filled a journal.

And believe it or not... (me talking to myself) I had to purchase a new journal.

I needed a deeper reason to journal and prayer seems to be the motivation that I needed.

My new journal isn't fancy. It didn't cost much more than a cup of my favorite coffee, but it's kind of priceless to me.

At its core, writing things down simply helps me to remember.

Remember what God has been showing me. Remember what and for who I've had on my heart to pray.

Writing things down can be as uncomplicated as jotting down a name that comes to mind or a verse reference. It can be as elaborate as pages of my heart being poured out in ink dusted with tear stains.

I've already gone back to revisit my last journal to see how many prayers have been answered that were recorded there.

Journaling has given me perspective in some of my difficult circumstances.

Journaling consistently, along with recording what I'm reading in the Bible has increased the level of intimacy in my walk with Jesus. I feel the warm breath of His present tense words on my life.

Just in recent weeks, as things have been unfolding in some surprising ways in our life, I've run to record them in my journal. The verses, the things that have happened without our striving. I've written them down so I don't forget how God has revealed Himself to me. To my husband and I. To our family.

Recording what we've seen Him do, has made this relationship with Him feel even more tangible.

More personal.

And I found myself re-reading those pages when circumstances scream that what we've felt God's leading us too isn't true. The journal reaffirms we have seen God leading us in a direction even if we don't know completely what that will look like.

I wonder if Abraham had a journal. I wonder how he recorded the things God was doing to confirm the direction he was heading. After all. Abraham and Sarah left what was comfortable and familiar to go to a place they did not know. There had to be days they wondered if they miss understood their calling.

Journaling gives purpose and direction to our journeying.

These months of consistent journaling, have been an invitation from to God to speak into past pain, current situations and future dreams.

He has placed on my heart to pray for blessings I've never thought to ask for.

For instance this prayer: "God what is something that You'd like to do in our lives that would not only bless us but our family and others?"  From, Battle Plan For Prayer, by Stephan & Alex Kendrick 

I recorded that prayer and dated it, with a note: "Lord I have NO idea what that could be." And it feels like God is saying: "I know what that looks like and you may want to take notes."

A prayer like the one above, is so honoring to God because the Bible says He has good plans for us.

Journaling has helped me better see the details of Gods protection and blessing and timing. Plus a deep sense of relationship, trust, and gratitude.

It has given me a deep sense of belonging to Him.

I've experienced great rest and release as I've handed over the stuff of life in prayer and dated it.

No doubt there are things that I get to pray and hand over, again and again, but the journal feels like I hammered a stake in the ground on the enemies accusations and my own doubt.

Journaling has taken the pieces of my life, placed them like stones in a riverbed, smoothing them over with His truth, making newly beautiful material that can be pieced together on the path being laid out before us.

It has taken my eyes off of things that distract me and helped me focus on His work in me. in this season.

Journaling has stirred up things in my soul. 

I certainly don't understand how God meets us in the pages of Scriptures and proceeds to sit down to process how that applies to the details of  this right now life, but journaling has helped to open my eyes to that reality.

The pages of scripture are moving from my head to my heart. 

The more I write down the story unfolding in my life, the more I realize it's actually God's story being written on my life.  

 I'm new to embrace this need to write, to journal the journey. 

"...for we are each the product of His hand, heavens poetry etched on our lives."
Ephesians 2:10

I am God's masterpiece.

- - -
Tell me how you record your journey?

How do you see His hand, heavens poetry, being etched on your life friend?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Once Upon A Banquet Table

It was an eclectic gathering of textures and golden light. Patches of greenery, wood, and elements of gold and silver were softened with tumblers of fresh cut baby’s breath. Spanning across the eighty-foot balcony, overlooking the lake, rows of tables and straight lines of white chairs invite guests to come and sit.

The planning. All of it.

The guest list. Family, friends, and the influential people in the lives of the bride and groom.

The food. So much food.

The forecast hung like the billowy blustering clouds rowing across the sky. Freezing temperatures along with rain mixed with snow arrived and stayed for days just as predicted. On the evening of rehearsal –rehearsal for a beach wedding– rain fell heavy pushing everyone into small spaces.

Sometimes there is just no turning back, even if you don't know how to go forward.

All along there was never a plan B. That's how our youngest daughter lives.

And even if I have no control what-so-ever--- I want everyone to be comfortable and feel like we sat a place at the table just for them. Not to impress, but to serve and to bless.

I was raised in a home of feasting.

A home where everyone who entered was welcome. We had a farm-sized table that was filled with platters of food, pitchers of fresh brewed tea and always, always, some sort of dessert.

I was taught –– or at least it was caught –– that the common thread of hospitality and blessing others is making people feel like you've saved a place just for them. Even if someone dropped in, we acted like we'd been waiting, with their favorite meal or a secret family recipe.

In the middle of that spring flashback of a winter gale, with all the tables set, we were left to pray. We prayed that dawn would break, the wind would die down and the sun would burn off the damp chill.

There is no explanation except God.

He answered our prayers.

A few hours before the wedding march was set to play, the wind became only a playful breeze, the sun warmed the sand and made light dance on faces. It was wonderful and sweet and romantic.

It felt like the Lord blessed the gathering and their lives now stretched out before them like a great banquet.

I don't see how we could have ever doubted Him. After all, He is God and He knows about how to set a table and throw a banquet.

In the Psalms, David wrote about the banquet God prepared for him. Those verses contain some of the most beautiful imagery and comforting truth.

In the book of Luke, Jesus was invited to a wedding. His first recorded miracle took place there. The turning water into wine. It is one of my favorite stories. A blog post needs to be written about just that.

And this week I was reading the narrative that could be named, "Once Upon A Banquet Table."

Jesus was invited to feast at a prominent man's house.

It was a gathering of whos-who. The significant. The outwardly amazing. The powerhouses. If there were things like Instagram and Facebook at that time, the newsfeeds would have been flooded with snapshots of them lifting their goblets and posed pictures with the host.

But Jesus. He wasn't afraid to mess with their status-quo thinking.

Instead of joining in with their self-promoting ways, Jesus took this banquet opportunity to teach some truth.

Truth, that I'm guilty of missing too.

Truth, of how we live on this earth today will impact how we will live in eternity.

He tells the man who invited him to the dinner: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”  

That was upside-down thinking then. It's upside-down thinking now. 

There is another banquet yet to come.

It's a banquet we don't want to miss.

We will be on the guest list in heaven if we believe on earth the testimony of Jesus.


They are vivid pictures of Jesus and His church.

Banquet tables.

A living representation of communion, of fellowship, and of being invited.

The feasting and the joyful gathering of many. A place prepared for you.

All are invited but not everyone will accept the invitation.

Here on earth, we get a glimpse of this glory. There is something holy and incredibly beautiful about a person, about the people, who make everyone feel like there is room at their table. They look like Jesus.

And someday.... the scene will change.

Dawn will break and the Son will reveal the Great Banquet.

The banquet He has prepared for those who love Him.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Believing His Promises & Waking Up Dreams

The rhythm of my life has the sweet scent of ordinary days.




Most days, I rise to the gentle strum of a guitar –on my alarm.

I wander into the kitchen in my favorite cotton hoodie and yoga pants to make one large coffee.

Cupping that motivation, I descend to my office and settle into the reclaimed, repurposed chair that's covered with  sea blue faux velvet fabric. For almost a decade I've thought about getting a fancy, neutral, photograph worthy chair.

But no. This one is like a friend who has walked many miles of life.

Here I read.



My life is good. I'm glad for the lack of uncommon.

It all feels cozy and known and held.

In my neighborhood, I know what time it is by which neighbor is driving by.

All of this is beautiful. All of this is a gift.

Until twelve days ago.

That morning? I did all the things I usually do.

The sky laid out with soft blue streamers of slender cirrus clouds overhead and green tufts of grass poking through the winter ground outside my office window.

The weathermen had been squawking for days about snow. I was made aware of this when the checker looked over the top of her trifocals, surveying my half a gallon of milk and the single dozen of brown eggs. "Not sure you have enough for the weather we're expecting," she warned.

Before I could even respond, she went into the three-day forecast, which around here involves some wind. I resisted the urge to go back and pick-up a bag of licorice and thanked her for the information.

I book my hair appointments months in advance. Hair is that important. I realize the vanity of it all. Still, few things could warrant canceling, including the grocery-store-lady forecast.

By now the sky had turned to low yellow-grey clouds.

The wind rocked my midsized SUV and the flag at the bank leaned into the southwest.

Two hours later things had definitely changed. Piercing wind delivered snow and reduced visibility to the hood of my car. The streets were layered with ice and a milky blanket of snow.

This is when light split the sky and the deep boom of  thunder shook the atmosphere.

Blizzard + thunderstorm.

I'm almost six decades old and have never experienced the wonder of it!

They call it, "an abrupt and radical meteorological change." A collision of cold air clashing with warm, moist air.

It's rare and frightening and unsafe.


In the middle of this new-to-me phenomenon, I had one last stop.

Only a few minutes and I would be able to head home.

There, in a small office with someone I only casually know, a conversation arose.

It was an unexpected conversation. It led to an uninvited observation. I left the office half annoyed and half wondering why it felt like a holy moment.

I'm sure they had no idea of the odd weight of their words.

For five miles, visibility was limited to the sharp drop-off that leads to the canyon on the right side of the highway. The snow blew and the thunder crashed and things inside me shook.

Finally, I pulled into the garage at home and closed the door. But I could not shut out the encounter.

Thunder vibrating the chambers of my  mind and lightning struck some fire in this soul.

And a dream awakened.

The wind howled and the dream yawned and stretched as it rose from its deep slumber. A dream that quite frankly I didn't know was inside of me.

I've believed in the promises of God, but lately I've been undone by the dreams He plants in our DNA.

Dreams that would take God Himself to accomplish.

Dreams that aren't safe or tidy or comfortable.

But we are walking forward and the doors have been opening.

So we are going to keep walking forward until we see how far this sleeping giant will take us.

This feels like a thundersnow-dream.

Surreal. Near zero visibility, crashing thunder and streaks of lightning.

Abrupt and radical. Doubt clashing with faith.

It feels like God has jolted me/us out of our beautiful ordinary life and revealed a glimmer of His glory and His desire to bless us.

And I believe it's a dream that God has been weaving the intricate plans for all along.

Out of the storehouses of the heavens, He awakens dreams in the heart of a dreamer –when the time is right.

He stirs up the atmosphere of a soul and starts writing a new chapter to the story. And the wind of the Spirit is flipping the pages.

The world says we make our own dreams happen, but that is not what I'm living right now.

God woke up the dream and it's wild and not one that I could manufacture.

For us, it's hard to believe and impossible to accomplish –apart from Him.

We want to live this for His glory. We want to seek our happiness in the Lord alone, but tucked away in this verse is a promise. When we desire to know God, He knows the dreams planted deep in our hearts and He is apparently willing to wake them up, stir them up and then fulfill them.

I feel uncomfortable and known and held.

Stay tuned for the unfolding.

Monday, March 28, 2016

You Can be Part of the Tapestry of Love

"In weaving, tension is a good thing," she said.

Laura makes her art look effortless.

Her hands and feet all work in rhythm, interlacing threads with donated remnants of material or reeds cut from the weed, phragmites, that grow in abundance along the river. There is something soothing about the sound and the process of weaving to an onlooker like me. The natural fibers, earthy tones and random bits of thread feel healing and real.

Standing in the office of Deborah's Legacy, I'm watching something beautiful be crafted out of things discarded and viewed as useless.

The first seeds for the ministry of Deborah's Legacy were planted in the tender hearts of co-founders, Allison Huebner and Jill Vaughn.

Allison and Jill drew from the example found in the Bible of the warrior Deborah, who used her strengths to bring glory to God. The ministry name also has deep meaning because of the loss of Allison's sister, Deb, who died as a result of her addiction to alcohol and drugs.

In her research, Jill discovered a residential program called, 'Magdalene' a part of Thistle Farms.

Deborah's Legacy was loosely patterned after this successful life restoring program.

Now, Deborah's Legacy is beginning its 4th year as a residential program that provides secure housing as a haven from the social, psychological, and economic factors that drive women to desperate means for survival.

Last year my heart got wrapped around these women and their stories.

The work of recovery is hard, imperfect and beautiful. Sometimes it feels like I'm watching my own little girl navigate a winding path while learning to ride a bike for the first time. And when these women embrace the truth of faith? It's like they are riding with no hands! You can see the excitement and hope and a tiny bit of fear in their eyes. The wind of the Spirit and freedom whipping their hair while they are learning to balance it all, teetering, nearly out of control.

There are falls and skinned hearts and a deeper healing. And the hardest work of all, learning to get up and try again. And again.

But it's a beautiful thing when a woman begins to trust that they are loved for who they most deeply are and they embrace their unique, God-given strengths. They begin to move forward and build a new life. They begin to laugh and be thankful for the days.

Ultimately one life changed can affect an entire community.


This is such a key piece to what happens at Deborah's Legacy.

The women live in community with other women and are challenged to hold each other accountable. Through various volunteers and experiences, the women have opportunities to broaden their healthy circle of friends.

The Magdalene House in Nashville has a saying:
 "A community that lets a woman live on the streets, 
can also be the community that brings her home."

And for almost twenty years the Magdalene model has proven that community and love heals.

What I love is that Deborah's Legacy holds out Jesus as the One true answer to every broken, shattered, thing in their life.

His love is what binds up broken hearts and brings the true, lasting, healing that so many try to fill with drugs, alcohol or another man's approval.

The embrace of Jesus is the only one we need.

The embrace of Jesus is all-inclusive.

His love can penetrate any barrier.

His healing can restitch any broken heart.

The vision of Legacy is that of women growing individually and collectively while living in community.

Deborah's Legacy is a community of communities.

The women who come here represent a large radius of communities.

The door is open to all.

The common thread is brokenness. The prevailing need is to be loved.

How far would the ripple effect reach when even one life receives healing?

I don't know the full weight of it, but Jesus talked about leaving the 99 to bring back the one.

The scarlet thread that runs through their story lines, parallel the ones that run through all of our lives.

Soul places that need deeper healing. Hearts that need bending toward greater and greater obedience which will result in greater freedom.

I showed up to be part of helping others and ended up being the one receiving some healing. It's so upside-down to anything I can explain. What I know is that God is moving. People loving people can change the trajectory of a life, which has the potential to impact the lives of their families, neighborhoods, towns and the generations to come.

The thing being offered to women at Legacy House is the thing that Jesus offers everyone one of us. The free gift that He bought for us at great price.

The Weavers Beam makes all things new.

The Lord is using the pieces, the cords, the strain and all the stretching, to weave gilded threads into our story.

Into His story.

And He calls us all to join in the work. 

He calls us to be His tapestry of love. 

- - - - - - -  

Ways to partner with Deborah's Legacy:

Would you pray?

Would you like to hear more?

Personal message me if you are interested in attending the banquet. RSVP by Thursday, March 31.

Monday, March 21, 2016

The Way, The Truth, & The Life

Against the gray horizon, tree trunks look like thick black strokes of an artist's brush. Color has dissolved from the sky into muted shadows of sunlight masked by a canopy of dark clouds. Hues of black and silver settle across the lake making everything appear nearly monotone. 

It seems like darkness is hanging over and rising up all around.

In the past? I would have spent these days before Easter obsessing about what my children would wear, what pies would be served on Easter Sunday, and if the weather forecast would be good for the annual hunt for candy.

Those were days before I understood who Jesus was and Is.

Before I grasped the weight of my sin or why Jesus had to die at all.

I was caught in a trap of devotion to religion, performance, and general thoughts of being morally good. That's what I believed would help me grope my way through the darkness.

If you know me, you may have heard me say it. How the darkness I walked in could be felt. How it was like being trapped in a deep black tunnel with a speck of elusive light at the end. But the pinpoint-sized glow only gave me a hint of the direction to stumble toward, not light for where to place my foot on the path in the journey.

I thought I was good and good people go to heaven. But the problem with self-defined beliefs is how I had no sure confidence when I had prayed enough, given enough, gone to church enough.

I wish I could write this more eloquently. Not so you would think these words are amazing, but so you could hear the truth of it.

Jesus said there is only One way. 

He came to make the way. He came to pay the price. He came to finish the work.

He came to remove all the barriers, except the barrier of His message.

The message that He is the Way. The Truth. The Life.

I hear it all the time, how the message of Jesus messes with how people think it should look like.

Jesus fed the hungry, calmed the storm, healed sick people on the Sabbath and embraced those who were marginalized. It definitely messed with what people said it should look like.

This week I was reading about how darkness came over the whole land for three hours, as He hung on the cross.

The Light of the World had been willingly extinguished.

But here, and here and here, Jesus told how He would suffer and die and on the third day, He would rise again.

The cost of it is more than I can fully grasp.

He was abandoned by his closest companions, tortured beyond recognition and was hung between two criminals. Is it hard for you to read this? I know it's hard on my heart to write about it. And I'd much rather discuss topics such as the current spring fashions and trending Pinterest recipes, but this is the message that changed me. 

This message of Jesus dying on the cross is the one that brought me from darkness to Light. This has lifted me from the dark pit of religion and all the messy stuff that darkness breeds.

When we read about people who encountered Jesus in an authentic way ––they were changed. Deep down, radical, ridiculous, unexpected, and unapologetic ––change.

My heart needed to feel the weight of what it cost Jesus.

Jesus is the Master artist who has not only weaved threads of light into the darkness, His death and resurrection has brought victory over the darkness.

And it's blinding light for His glory.

We are all messed up and fall short.

We are also, so loved and adored that Jesus was glad to die for us.

Knowing this should move us out of pews and move us into circles.

Circles of friends that will help us grow in our relationship to know Jesus better.

It should move us into circles in our communities ––to serve.

Circles in our hard-to-love family –– to love.

Circles wherever there are people who might be looking for light in the midst of darkness ––to shine.

For years. And years. I tried to understand why Jesus had to suffer like He did.

This Friday coming, would be the worse day in History, except for the beautiful truth that three days later became the best day in History.

The Son of God was lifted up on a cross to take on the sins of the world.

And three days later He rose from the dead. 

To the surprise of His own disciples, to the shock of His haters, this is the victory over sin and death.

The victory promised since the days of Genesis when God said a Lamb would be provided for our sins. And it's laid out for us in the book of Revelations, the promise of how Jesus will return as our Conquering King.

We can celebrate this Easter week, not from a place of defeat but from a place of Hope and of new life.

So shades of onyx mingle with light and the darkness is overcome. 

He is Risen.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Catching The Days

The beauty of people who write down their words is how they can come over for coffee anytime even when distance separates. I don't know Annie Dillard, but it's as if she's been at my home, speaking to me these days.

Annie said this too, "How we spend our days, is of course, how we spend our lives."

She seems to be a woman with an understanding about the importance of how she spends her time.

I'm not sure that I've ever done extremely well at how I spend the currency of my time, but this season, in particular, time seems to be slipping through holes in my purse.

I'm naturally a spontaneous idealist who spends concentrated amounts of time alone so I can spend concentrated amounts of time with people. Chaos and whim are close friends of mine.

For almost a decade my course has been altered by the realities of age and passing the baton to a younger generation in many ways. There was cancer, my mom's sudden death, my ministry focus being flipped on its head trying to land right side up and our youngest child getting married and moving away.

And I quit my perfectly amazing job, with the best bosses ever, where I got paid way too much for what I did ––so I could have more time.

At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I felt like the Lord was moving me into something different.

Yet, last year was perhaps one of my worse for living intentionally.

I think it's honest to say I've lived through a 'more-than-half-way-through-life crisis.'

So now, an entire year later, what is my excuse for not being organized and task-oriented with bullet points on daily lists that stretch out horizontally to well scheduled months and a solid five-year plan?

Even if that isn't what life will ever look like for me, I have some dreams and boxes full of scribbles on snippets of paper with ideas and half-whispered prayers.

My desk? Well if you've seen a picture of it looking fabulous, it was staged.  On a normal day, the clipboard system I use for projects is randomly stacked three layers high with no flat surface visible.

Of course, I pretend to know where everything is.

Recently I was whining about my days disappearing like peanut M & M's. (Which are a favorite snack.)

A friend  suggested a Personal Retreat Day. She sent me a simple outline based on a 9-hour day to help refresh and get more organized.

This Saturday, it happened.

It could be difficult for some people to do this retreat at home, but for me, being at home was such a gift.

I had to make a few rules, because I'm easily distracted by laundry, dishes, etc.

So this is how I did the retreat:

Part One: (2 hours) The Personal Day Retreat suggested beginning with a short physical workout and a long spiritual workout.

I got up early. Put on my yoga pants, made coffee, did a few dishes and threw in a load of laundry. (Yes. I know. But keep reading....)

At 7 a.m. I was in my office reading, praying, journaling.

At 9 a.m. I did a 20-minute workout on my mat with the window open and the birds singing. I had beautiful music and coffee. This alone was enough reason to do this again.

Part Two: Calendar organization (1 hour) The suggestion is to look at how you've spent your time, and look at how you plan on spending your time in the next month.

Since I haven't done this well all year it took me a little longer than everyone else in the whole world. The beauty of doing this part? Freedom. It was like the blood began to circulate in my mind again. Next time I do a Retreat Day, this will probably take me much less time.

Part Three: (2 hours) Upcoming speaking and writing schedule. It was so good to actually spend time praying and thinking through as well as organizing what I will be doing in the coming months. It also helps me know I need some boundaries with what time is not spoken for.

I took a walk with the neighbor about this time. It was good to take a break and get some fresh air.

Part Four: (1 hour) Honestly evaluate your life. Spend time grading yourself on every component of your life. The areas suggested were: faith, marriage, family, office, computer, ministry, financial, social, attitudinal life, author life, speaker life, and physical life. 

This part was telling. I actually prayed that the Lord would speak to me about these areas. I certainly have ideas about where I fail and where I do better but there were some areas that He brought to mind that surprised me. Some were just hard but good. So good to know that God always, only, shows us our stuff for redemption, not condemnation.

Part Five: (1.5-2 hours) Writing, reading, something to stir the soul. 

This was refreshing. I was able to do a little bit writing, reading and lots of stirring of my soul.

Part Six:(0.5-1 hours) Dream 

I prayed more during this portion of my retreat. It was good just to dedicate my dreams to Him. We'll see where all this goes.

I actually spent closer to twelve hours doing my first ever Personal Retreat Day. At the end of this time, I had even cleared off my desk, backed up my computer and deleted all the clutter.

What I felt was a sense of peace.

My Personal Retreat Day has taken the hurry out of my head and my soul.

The Personal Retreat Day helped me peel back personal life layers and ask the Lord gut honest questions. It has given me a sense of partnering with God instead of just going through my motions of another day.

My struggle has been to align priorities around relationships and activities that will have a lasting impact. I needed to take a look at what I'm doing well and what I'm not. To see in  black and white print what I want to cultivate and what I want to weed out of my life.

It was a time for self-reflection and God-reflection.

A one-day holy break.

This was not a day to figure out how to do more but how to go deeper in what is important.

The next Personal Retreat Day is already on my calendar.

I've got a few ideas to incorporate into the schedule.

Of course, this is an ongoing project to implement a daily schedule for a person who's an impulsive stargazer that has traveled more than half way through this life journey.

It feels like I've cast a net to capture some of the days that lie ahead.

I would love to hear how you recharge and refresh. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Call To Real Community

Pink spills across the evening sky reflecting off windows of houses with soft glossy luster.

The air has a faint scent of dryer sheets as I pedal on the narrow road that winds through my neighborhood. Warm air whips a few strands of hair against my cheek as I breathe in deep and count slow: "One....two....three....four..."

I feel my chest rise and belly expand and I continue to breathe in.... ""

Then the slow exhale mixes with pure oxygen and movement.

It's a one-mile loop to circle my neighborhood. I don't ride here for the adventure of it, but because it's the community I live in.

We've lived here for well over a decade and mostly I've tried to keep to myself.

These people? We appreciate their well-fertilized, neatly manicured lawns, but what we have in common is our location. There is a cross-section of people from deeply varied backgrounds.

There are single folks, couples, and large families. Some are retired from long-term employment and some have had long-time disabilities.

There are men who are caregivers for their wives and women who have buried their husbands. Teenagers around here, drive fast and text through intersections.There are people who park on our lawn crushing sprinkler heads so they can retrieve their mail and others send their kids and pets over to our yard.

That word community has at its Latin root, "common."

As in, together.

And wherever there is a lot of togetherness, we've probably all learned... it imperfect, hard, and messy.

My neighborhood is a very small example of that.

Even in this beautiful community, I could easily put out tall metal stakes to mark out boundaries, close the garage door and pull the shades.

And too often I've been that person who takes this approach to my church community.

It's easier to dart in and out of places where community could happen. Just nod politely. Maintain a safe distance from certain people. Establish safe boundaries. Keep the conversation casual and short. Avoid uncomfortable topics and hard conversations. Return as quickly as possible to my isolated life.

C.S. Lewis has been quoted by many in relation to deep theological issues, but one of my all-time favorite quotes from him is this: "If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity."

Isn't that just the truth?

Church is hard because it is intended to be community where we share Christ in common. 

Church community is designed for our growth.

Community is a hard thing, but community is the important thing.

"Love is never stimulated apart from community."

Lewis might have been thinking about this verse when he made that statement: "....let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another..." Hebrews 10:24-25

That word, stimulate? Other Bible versions use words such as: provoke, move, motivate, spur, promote, encourage, and my personal favorite ––stir up.

People in community tend to 'stir up' stuff in other people. For good and for bad.

People and their stuff... tend to bring out our stuff.

But in Christian community faith and hope can collide to bring about something miraculous. 

We grow up. 

We learn to get over ourselves. 

But when we avoid achingly-honest relationships we stay stuck in our immature and selfish ways.

Two unsolicited conversations, with two unrelated women, prompted me to write this post.

One precious lady said that she wasn't going to church anymore. The way she saw it, no one ever spoke to her anyway. A few weeks later, right in the middle of a busy check-out lane, a woman told me she quit going to church because she didn't need others. She was just doing her own thing at home.

Both of these situations are tragic to me and seem to fall into two camps of thinking. The one says I don't need people and the other says people don't need me.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. As messy and hard and often hurtful as community can be, I need ––we all need–– those women to show up and use the gifts that only they can bring.

Every single person has a critical part to play, especially in the context of Church. And when someone decides to not show up, the whole group suffers the loss of what only that person has been given as gifts and talents.

I believe that we are made with a soul hunger for relationships that are real.
And if we are honest, most of us would probably agree, that people who are real and vulnerable are the kind of people we are drawn to.

The opposite of real and vulnerable..... is fake and closed. While I believe everyone needs community, when I set up metal fences to keep people at a distance, relationships will never grow easily.

Church community that is healthy takes us beyond our self-interests and superficial pursuits. This is the place we learn to serve others, acknowledge areas of sin and immaturity. Community has the potential to teach us about grace. The receiving of grace and extending grace.

This is the messy part that trips up too many of us. It's hard work.

Sometimes we have to allow community to gather around us and sometimes we have to be the one who gathers around others.

We need to circle the things that cultivate healthy relationships and find rhythm in hard community. 

Often we have to go first and move toward someone in the next gracious act of love to build community.

The practice of Christian community makes the Gospel a living reality, and it will have a ripple effect in our churches, neighborhoods, schools, families and more.  

We may never "feel" like loving our neighbor, roommate, a friend that betrayed us, or that ever-present difficult relative, but when we behave as if we do love them, before long the feeling follows the action.

And a bridge to community will begin.

Love is the binding agent that seeps into the broken spaces of hurt from past community failures. 

The truth is, where there are people there will be more hurt and more wounds. But when we risk greatly instead of playing it safe our lives will reflect Jesus to a world that longs for something real.

Apart from community, we tend to remain shallow, selfish and surfacy. How can we learn to love if we isolate and insulate ourselves?

Love cannot happen in a vacuum. Love happens when we place God at the center and give Him permission to have His way in our lives.

When we surrender to Jesus He will draw us into community, but we have to release our grip of what that looks like.

Breathe in deep and slow as we navigate and circle the places and people in our lives. May we shine Light into the world that sinks into peoples souls.

Remember this? You need people and other people need you.

Church community should impact how we live in every circle of our lives. Of all the place we gather, when we love Jesus we can make an impact for eternity in those places.

One of the primary ways this can happen is to move into real community.

Perhaps there are a few telling questions we could ask ourselves?

     Are we teachable?

     What does our community look like?

     Does our community have room for truth-speaking relationships?

     How do you inspire others to greater love, kindness and community?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Being Brave in Every Season

Rising against the steel grey-blue sky, snow geese flap and wave as they beat their wings to a silent calling that propels them on their epic journey.

These winged messengers that travel between heaven and earth, herald the news of a change in season.

I've heard it's true. That birds know more than humans about seasons.

Or maybe they simply respond to what they know.

They don't hold a meeting, appoint a committee or consult groundhogs. They don't go by the calendar or the time change or make decisions based on their emotions. They just instinctively respond by setting their bodies into motion.

The winter has been gentle in my part of the world. Green tufts of grass poke through on the slopes that get afternoon sun. In this month of typically frozen temperatures, there have been many spring-like days that feel like summer.

The kind of warm air that feels good to bones that are passed the half-century mark.

Walking along the shore of the lake, flecks of light shimmer off the water and the air is sweet. Fishermen bob and sway in their little boats like a dance with design and sequence. These same men huddled in their fishing huts on thin ice pitched dangerously close to the edge of open water just two weeks ago.

They were reluctant to shift with the seasons.

The change came regardless.

As much as I love this season of the days growing light, a season that will soon turn to lush grass and flowering bushes of summer, I also embrace the warmth of autumn with its rich tones and the great harvest.  I even love the deep chill of winter and the hot chocolate and good books that come with it. And then spring pushes back the veil as it brings the sweet hope of new beginnings and life begins again.

There are other seasons I'm more reluctant to embrace.

Six years ago I was shaken awake, into a season of cancer. It was an uninvited season. One where you want to wake up from the bad dream and wrap yourself tight in a patchwork quilt, huddle on the couch with a hot cup of tea to insulate your heart from the bitterness of it.

It was a day just like today. When the hard edge of winter was slipping away and the time change was about to make every morning brighter. The truth of this season has become more apparent now, than when the word, "cancer" arrived.

Now ––looking back–– I see it better for what it was.

There were people that I met in those waiting rooms ––many of them are now gone. But those days I got to hear some of their story and the season that had landed them there. Holding their hand in silence was a bit like sharing communion, at least, a communion of tears. I met doctors and nurses and people on the elevator. Most of them I'll never see again, and they gave me the gift of themselves.

That hard season didn't leave before it accomplished some much-needed pruning in my life, allowing new life to push forward. 

It has taught me about the in-between times.

The uninvited season.

The times that don't seem to go away.

The kind of seasons that leave little room to make up your mind about the next move because you are only able to do the next move that has been planned for you.

Those seasons of unique pressures that shatter the thin walls of hollow souls. 

Maybe seasons like you've experienced? Measured between infertility and conception and delivery. The space between pain and comfort. The time that lapses between the persistent calling on your life and the realization of that dream unfolding. The eternity between the diagnosis and the healing, the strained relationship and the restoration, the financial crisis and the breakthrough, the broken heart and the blessing or the crisis and the miracle.

We all know that some of these seasons don't have a happy-ever-after, the guy-gets-the-girl kind of giddy end.

These seasons test what we are made of and Who we live for.

The same God who made the moon to mark the seasons, and tells the sun when to go down.... is the God who knows the number of our days and hears prayers said from sincere hearts.

In the most difficult, unwanted seasons I've found a few things that usher peace into the crazy.

I go to the promises. Promises like this one; “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”

No matter how hopeless a day or moment may feel, the God of Hope.... will fill us with joy and peace as we trust Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

The secret ––if there is a secret–– is to be thankful.

I've had to speak it out loud. To put a voice to my own doubt, for the enemy of my soul to hear and anyone else who may be listening;  "....I will praise You, God." "Yes, I will praise You!" "Nothing is too big for You." "And even if I never see an answer to this hard season, I will praise You...."

Something powerful happens when we praise God when things are hard.

I began to learn this praising Him thing... in seasons when my children shattered my heart.

I praised the Lord for opening the doors to my oncologist and the medical staff in another state in my journey through breast cancer.

I was overwhelmed by seeing God's hand in the final days and hours of my mom's life and was moved to praise Him through tears after seeing her exhale that last breath.

Certainly the praise wasn't because of the pain that was being lived out, but because He is God and these seasons will not have the last word in eternity.

We have to be ready in season and out of season. I have to preach the Word to myself and live it before others ––even when I don't feel like it.

Especially when I don't feel like it.

These seasons demand their own time frame. While they can be harsh like winter and produce new growth like spring, the transition of their arriving and departure isn't marked out by weather patterns or hours of sunlight, but by the hand of God.

He has us all on an epic journey.

Our part is to trust Him in it all.

Day after day we live.

Sometimes it's easy to think nothing has changed ––until we look back and realize––  we have changed and so, therefore, everything has changed. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Miracle of Tears

A single tear rolled down her cheek. A few more splashed out of her beautiful eyes and began to furrow into a steady stream down her young face. The next time I glanced her direction, she was full out weeping ––in silence.

It was beautiful and hard, but a young woman gave herself permission to release the pain she had long suppressed.

Praise God.

The woman who sat next to her quietly patted the girls back, occasionally handing her a new tissue, as if she understood the work of releasing the tears. The need for it, without interruption and without someone trying to fix a thing.

Her tears told a story of unspeakable pain and honest regret. Like a voiceless lament releasing the agony of her soul.

Tears are wordless truth-tellers of the deeper places.

It's an interesting fact that in our world, only humans can cry.

An article, written over two decades ago, stated that biochemist William Frey spent 15 years, as head of a research team, studying ––tears.

Think about that. Every day. Go to work. Study tears.

It's always interesting to me when science can devote that kind of time to a single aspect of the human body and not completely unearth the depths of its mysteries. We truly are fearfully and wonderfully made.

In the beginning of his study, it was believed that the tear duct was leftover from evolution and no longer necessary. What was revealed is that the tear production organs, as well as the tears themselves, are extremely complex and important. It's more than a happy coincidence that science confirmed, each teardrop is a miracle on many levels.

They found that tears are some of the most antibacterial and antiviral agents known. These beads of moisture make it possible for us to see by keeping our eyes hydrated and protected, but there is more.

William Frey found that stress-induced tears actually remove toxic ‘substances’ from the body and there is a long list of them. His research found that crying removes toxins that normally build up during emotional stress. Plus, his studies uncovered that suppressing tears actually increases stress levels and, therefore, toxins.

Isn't our natural inclination to fight back the tears?

Don't we all try to be strong and brave because we've been taught that real men and big girls don't cry?

What if tears are the oil that lubricates small hinges to swing open the gate of healing and faith?

Luke unfolds a story that is perhaps my very favorite. The host was an important man. Jesus was his invited guest. And there was an unnamed woman. All we know of her is that she had lived a sinful life.   She had begun to weep. Perhaps her tears made furrows in the dust that covered His feet.  She could not have planned to be such a crying mess. Thank goodness she just let herself be undone and it is recorded for our benefit. Her tears began to cleanse the shame from her soul as well as the dust from His feet. She came weeping and repentant. And Jesus made it known that she was going to walk away a new woman.

What if another broken seeker allows the first tear to become a path beyond what has held them down for too long? What if a single tear could be the beginning of some real healing?

2 Corinthians 7:10 tells us that the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There's no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.

In this world, we are all too well-acquainted and surrounded by sorrow and grief. And tears could be the cleansing agents of grace we need in all of it.

In my own life, I can see how  ––even though reluctantly––  tears have been part of the paving material on the path of my own deep restoration.

It was through angry, frightened tears that I took my first steps as a single mom.

Through a veil of erupting tears in the dark of another long night, I first cried out to God to meet me where I was and change me from the inside out.

Tears of anger softened the hard ground of my heart. Eventually, tears watered the seeds of faith and swung open the gate to freedom and peace.

Even today, rogue tears turn into an unexpected act of worship that fall like pearls doing a deeper cleansing in my messy soul.

Don't listen to the world that says to numb the pain, keep the stiff upper lip, so you can't feel anything. Tears can be a healing gift.

In her book, A Million Little Ways, Emily Freeman says to, "pay attention to what makes you cry." She points out,  "....our tears are tiny messengers, secret keepers of the most vulnerable kind, sent to deliver a most important message – Here is where your heart beats strong. Here is a hint to your design. Here is a gift from your inner life, sent to remind you those things that make you come alive.Where there are tears there is more than pain…there in lies the places that will speak to your deepest brokenness and passion."

I've put this to the test and repeatedly my tears have told me much about who I am. The things that break my heart are often the things that break God's heart.  

Women who need to know the love of Jesus send me into unplanned emotional tears. I've been that girl who tried to be tough. I've been that woman who wasn't invited. And I've been the one who entertained lies in her head too long.

But now my passion runs deep for others to know the One who wept.

Watching the young woman weep was uncomfortable. I wanted to help make it all better. Often, I'm not good at knowing when to speak and when to be silent.

But maybe.

Maybe that day her tears were a quiet unbinding of the things that have kept her restrained.

And maybe the weeping was a part of the releasing what she has known, so she could step into what God longs to give her.

I wonder, what makes you cry?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Your True Identity

Walking in the mall, standing in grocery stores and sitting in coffee shops ––you have told me your stories.

How the enemy came early to rob you of innocence, value, and purpose.

You have taught me that identities are often given more than found. And this through tragic events, neglect, and loveless-ness. By words spoken over you, of you and behind your back.

Somewhere the lie was bought that self-worth comes from what size clothes you wear, if your husband kept his promise or if you are the top sales person driving a big SUV.

And if that isn't enough to make you enough, there are the children and maybe grandchildren who are athletic and beautiful and the eternal fountain of to-do's to keep the noise and shuffle going.

Women. All blinged-out trying to be bullet-proof.

Certainly I recognize we are kindred sister spirits…. I’ve done all that too.

For those who figured out early on they could never perform enough, there are drugs, alcohol, and sex to numb the throbbing pain.

And some of you cut. You break the skin over and over and over and over again. So maybe when the blood drips down ––just maybe–– the soul pain will flow out too?

Your pain goes so, so deep. I don't understand it all, but in some ways I get it.

The enemy doesn't want you to understand what your true identity is. And we've all been losing the daily battles in our minds and hearts, but Jesus has won the war.

In the Bible....before God laid out rules to live by ––He told us who we were. 

He recorded for all of time and eternity that humans are made in Gods image. 

Dear women, we are His image bearers.

Image means representative likeness.

Of course there has to be bad news.

And this is the truth. Sin entered the world when Eve failed to believe what God said and bought the lie that God was holding out on her.

Truly the apple didn't fall far from the tree when it comes to women following the first example.

We try to hide our shame under the latest fashions and disguise our insecurities under make-up and masks. Too often we clamor for more when God says that less in more than enough.

We strain to see who we really are in the reflection in the mirror, when we can only find our true selves by looking to the One who made us.

He says you are His masterpiece.

He says that because of Jesus you are enough.

He says that there is a new song and a new name for each of us who believe.

But we need Jesus and we need to shed the names we allow to dance in our heads.

We have a real enemy. He hates God and hates all who are bearing the light of His image. He has a special hate for women. The ones who can bring forth new life. And because the fact is, women are the crowning jewel of Gods creation.

Do you need some good news?

The work is done. You can stop performing and start embracing the beauty of your enough-ness.

The battle is won. No more hiding in the shame, behind the masks, trying to control and being controlled by every dark thing that steals life.

That is what the cross is all about.


He paid it all.

When He shed His spilled out to cover all sin ––if we simply believe.

And because of that, you are enough. We are all enough.

Even when the mirror seems to tell us otherwise.

When we believe this and live this, we reflect glory. Like warm light as it rises above the shadows of a dark horizon and explodes over the treetops. We do this when we live out the things of the Spirit,

Moment by moment and day by day.

If we starve the things we do in the flesh ––the things of the flesh life will starve out and die.

If we will feed the spirit ––the spirit life will grow.

May we let Jesus define our worth.

May we read His Word and allow it to teach us. It's the instruction manual for unlocking the puzzling, complex reality of who we are and what His purposes for us are.

Friends, let us each release the identities we've had handed to us and the ones we've held onto for too long so that we can receive our true identity.

We have to let go of one to receive the other.

© Rhonda Quaney