My Pic

My Pic

Welcome to my little Corner

I am Barbara.

An introvert masquerading as an extrovert, a backyard gardener with a farmer's heart, a nurse by day and a dreamer by night. I am passionate about Jesus, spicy food, puppy dogs, words, compost and the aroma of desert rain. Music is chocolate to my soul but solitude feeds the deepest part of me.

And you need to know:

I have been rescued.

Several times actually. Right out of the mud and mire. My writing began as whispers between me and my God and it will always be rooted in that soil. So the plan is simple: I write. Out of the overflow of my heart, the place He has so generously chosen to dwell.

Though I am all grown up, I feel as if the handsome Prince has finally found me and the glass slipper fits. And a living breathing fairy tale has ensued.

So pull up a chair and "sit a spell", as we would say from my West Virginia roots. I hope you find His Footprints here.

Friday, December 6, 2013


The holiday season is rushing in like the tide on the seashore. Grateful hearts, all too brief, are consumed by the vortex of commercialism.   It seems that we barely get our bellies full with turkey before Black Friday assaults us, bringing with it only distant strains of the true meaning of Christmas.  We buy things we cannot afford, send Christmas card letters that paint only the lovely parts of our lives and find ourselves mired in a war over the phrase Merry Christmas vs Happy Holidays.

If I am honest, this is one of the least holy times of the year for me. 

There was a time though, as a child, when Christmas was alive.  Not just with the “big guy in the red suit” but with a baby born in a manger.  The wonder of it all captivated me, a wonder that seems to have been lost over the years. 

Maybe the purity of that time was that there were no responsibilities to fulfill, no grown up accountability's but only the simplicity of childlike trust.  But perhaps there are some pieces to this puzzle that I can rearrange even as an adult.  I cannot physically return to that childhood but I can lay down the cumbersome things that keep me distracted from the heart of Christmas and focus once again upon the glorious mystery.  Like that child from my past, I can sit at His feet with delight.

And as I reflect upon this, I am reminded that it has always been childlike faith that ushers in the Kingdom.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Hymn Nuggets

I’m a praise song girl. The entrance into worship is easy and I love where it takes me.   It feels really good to sing “I am Yours Lord” and “I give it all to You”.   And I really mean it… at least at the moment.  Ten minutes later I may be deciding which church door will get me out more quickly or what lunch food I’m hungering for.  The change from praise to the practical happens as easily as a light switch.   Maybe it’s just my problem but I find it so easy to slip in and out of worship.

Ironically, I grew up with hymns.  The traditional church of which I was a member was one where ladies wore fancy hats, men were decked out in suits and the pews were lined with velvet.  I didn't meet Jesus there, at least not as I now know Him.  Yet I experienced a reverence and an awe for worship in that sanctuary.  Admittedly, the hymns contained words that were stilted and seemed fashioned after another time.  But something else was different that I think was a good thing. 

The hymns didn't focus upon what I felt, but Who God was and what He had accomplished. 

There seems to have been a subtle shift from praising God for Who He is to praising God for what He does for us and how good He makes us feel.  And I fall into this trap so easily.  Yes, God has done great things for me but I must be careful to not place myself as the center as if it all revolves around me.  Our God is an awesome God, with or without me in the equation.

This Advent season I am planning to tackle the hymn.  Instead of an Advent calendar, I discovered a dust covered hymnal in my collection.  As I prepare my heart for the Christmas season, I want to focus anew upon the Godhead through hymns written by men and women over the ages.  Though some of the terminology may be unfamiliar they are sure to encompass some real gold.  I'm going to study them, sing them and enter into praise of the One who never changes or goes out of fashion.. 

So if you happen to wander through my neighborhood over the holidays and hear the strains of an old fashioned hymn sing instead of a Christmas carol, you've got the inside scoop..

Friday, November 22, 2013


I have often admired the trajectory of birds as they migrate across the horizon in flight.  They seem so purposeful as they grace the skies with their artistry.  When something fearful on the ground disrupts their peace, they soar gracefully toward the heavens. 

We would do well, I think, to emulate their movement.  When life here on earth erupts into trouble as it often does, we tend to stay grounded in the messiness of our suffering.  We may confer with others, even those we respect spiritually, but we spend most of our efforts replaying the options in our minds, tossing to and fro in frustration.  We keep our eyes downward instead of upward.  Why not, in the power of the Spirit, let our thoughts and fears take flight to the Lover of soul?  It is upward where our comfort and reassurance lie - in His arms and His wisdom.

Our human parents, Adam and Eve, have predisposed us to the ground.  We spend much of our time working the ground.  We cover our nakedness and shame while relationships are frequently fraught with sorrow.  But when Christ died and rose again, He offered us another path.   He took flight to the side of the Father and He promised that He would prepare a place for us as well.  Knowing this, why do we not soar to His side at the least provocation?

Scripture says that “we are worth more than many sparrows” who frequently seem to know the right direction better than I.  Today and always in the future I will face several potentially difficult situations.  The challenge remains: will I follow my feathered friends in flight?

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Pitfalls of Excellence

There are few things more frustrating: I am on the hunt for something I have misplaced.  I'm always sure that the item sprouted wings but in the end I discover it right where I left it. 

Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated when something is gone and we don’t realize it.  The church at Ephesus in the book of Revelation comes to mind.  The constituents were hard working and full of good deeds.  They had persevered and endured hardship in the name of Christ without growing weary.  They were even able to discern true apostleship.  All of these are signs of a healthy, vibrant church.   And let’s face it, they looked pretty good.  But before we are quick to say “sign me up” you may remember that there was one critical ingredient that was missing. 

They had lost their First Love. 

And I wonder.  Isn't the greater tragedy not that it happened, but that they were unaware and functioning well without knowing it?  And this thought terrifies me.  

Because it means that a church can look good while relying on the strength of man but be a counterfeit of the living breathing Bride of Christ. 

The church here in North America is equipped in so many ways.  We have wealth, education, and giftedness.  There are programs to fit every need, multiple pastors to minister and support groups for our dysfunctions.  While these are all good things, I wonder if we are too fat... too well cared for.   Have we begun to lean upon our own understanding, upon the  "institution" of church rather than upon our First Love?  Has our excellence surpassed our Love?  The Bible says what we treasure will also be the location of our heart so perhaps that's the place to start looking.

As a nurse I know that one of the signs of impending death in a terminal illness is often an absence of hunger.  The body shuts down, quietly closing its doors to the sustenance of life.  Likewise, when the Bride loses her appetite for the Bridegroom, the perils of death await us. 

May God save us from ourselves and renew our love for the true Bread of Life..  

Friday, November 8, 2013


In reality I didn't know the truth.

I didn't know from where he hailed nor at that moment did I care.  The morning had gone from bad to worse and the responsibilities of the day hung over me like the stethoscope around my neck.  I knew I was in trouble when his wife accompanied him to the clinical testing area.  And then the communication debacle began.  His native language and mine did not jive, instructions had to be repeated and I could tell that the understanding was limited by the pauses between us.  The usual quick start to our testing stretched into time I didn't think I had.  I confess, I felt annoyed.  

However, once the testing ensued, I began to ask questions.  I really listened to this man instead of making a snap judgment, depriving him of his beauty and worth as one of God's creation.  I discovered that though his English was limited, his intelligence and life experiences far exceeded mine.  He was gracious and appreciative in a manner that I did not deserve.

And I was so convicted.  I began to see how easily I view others as obstacles to move about in my day.  I am pretty sure that Jesus, The Truth, would tell me those people are my day.

Today I am going to start my routine based upon the Truth.  That God so loved the world that He gave... And I pray that my perspective will be His.

Friday, October 25, 2013


The sound of restaurant dishes tangling with silverware drowned out the stillness in my heart.  On the previous night I had met with an admired Christian author in Tucson and special memories circled in my mind as my hands encircled the coffee cup I was holding. Strangers before that evening, we had come together as one Christ follower with another.  A togetherness like no other.

Still, that next morning I was alone. Actually, that's the way I like it much of the time.  And on that intentionally planned solo trip, I found myself tucked away in the corner of the restaurant while the sun beckoned to me from the window on the other side.  A gentleman next to me, sharing the cushioned bench seating, shifted his weight causing my small frame to temporarily go airborne.  I chuckled to myself but really it only increased my sense of isolation and insignificance.  And then he dared to speak.  He asked about the breakfast. "Good", I answered quickly but like a cockroach returned to my darkened corner.  And then there was silence as he settled in for the long wait to be served his breakfast.  

And now, I wonder. Did he need to see Jesus in my eyes when I cast only a sideways glance and guarded my own discomfort?  And as I safely hid in obscurity, did I not cloister the very substance of the Gospel - caring enough about another to put aside my own comfort?  Do I not know that in a routine moment, God can change a life?  I am tired of not seeing into eyes.  I think He wants more from me than that.

My new friend in Tucson made herself available to a stranger. We shared face to face.


Should I offer another anything less ?

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Grace Notes

The tiny Episcopalian church was nestled at the end of Wallace Circle where we lived.  She was Catholic and I was Baptist though I‘m quite sure neither of us could have articulated the theology of the camp that claimed us.  Slipping through the unlocked sanctuary doors, we would sashay across shellacked wooden pew seats and reach for musty hymn books.  The sweet sound of little girl’s voices escaped to the towering ceilings, a soprano melded with a harmonizing alto.  Strains of Fairest Lord Jesus and Be Thou My Vision poured from our lips long before we knew the One of whom we sang. 

Often we would see or hear the priest enter the area but he never discouraged our stealth worship.  It was as if he had clearly heard Jesus say, “Let the little children come unto Me”.  And come we did.

It would be years before those hours bore fruit in my life.  But Mercy’s arms are long for the reaching.  And recently I've been thinking a lot about moments like the “hymn sings”.  God so artfully weaves those golden strands through the dirt and grind of our lives.  And like the strength of a spider’s silken web, they are capable of supporting the weight of a life wearied soul if we but only pause to see them.

I have several that I can pull out of my own archives: 

Mr LaPole, the faithful (but boring) Sunday School teacher who tried to teach the Bible to a table of Junior High kids as he mopped sweat from his brow.   But he was there and I remember his commitment.

The church camp high that I experienced, hinting that there was "something more".

My serendipitous interview, as a journalism major, with Miss Teen America that led to a Campus Crusade for Christ encounter.

The faithful friends that walked with me, spoke truth into my life and held me accountable when my feet slipped off the narrow path.

All of these are holy moments- part of the Master Architect's grand design and just waiting to be rediscovered.  What are yours?

Friday, October 18, 2013


Today I am teaming up with Lisa-Jo Baker on Five Minute Friday.  Each Friday she gives one word and bloggers from all over write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking. And then we link up with her.  Here's my first shot at it!
The word today is: Laundry.
Laundry - a kind of a rite of passage in itself.  It means I am caring for myself and others in a concrete way.  For me, it’s a cleansing of more than the outer because I find it lightens the load (no pun intended).  There is something about a routine ritual that is part of living.  Its repetitive nature means there is no ultimate completion of this responsibility but for some reason, the sense of accomplishment rewards me.   Even sorting begins to release the pressure valve I experience when I see overflowing laundry baskets.  And as I work through the laundry process, there is time to think, plan and consider the things the Spirit has laid upon my heart.  It’s as if each disappearing pile gives me a more spacious place mentally to ruminate about life.

And isn't that how life is to be lived really?  Doing that which needs to be done but allowing the Lord to be part of it. 

Because laundry is what He does.  He takes that which is unclean and makes it clean.  Could there be a higher calling than that?

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Paralysis of Perfection

I met with a fitness guru recently at the gym I had joined some time ago.  One visit in the past year provided little return on my money so I opted to get a little help in the motivation department.  The trainer told me that my fat percentage was 32% and considered in the danger zone. That definitely got my attention.  She lectured with authority, tossing her blonde head from side to side as she spoke.  And then this Barbie Doll further convinced me with the story of some poor soul who had worked out faithfully in the gym but never correctly.  The wrap up: Once she entered his life, fitness took hold, the pounds fell off and he lived happily ever after. 

But when the price tag attached to her little miracle making was revealed, I slumped away sadly like the rich young ruler who had been told he had to sell all he had.  In fact, not only did I not hire her, but I did nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  I was so afraid that I would be that poor failure of a soul who worked out incorrectly for the world to see, that I stayed away. 

Fitness is not my only dog in the fight.  Over the recent past, I have been on a hiatus from writing. Suddenly, it seemed like all the Barbie Doll writers were everywhere and I was the poor fool doing the writing exercises but doing them all wrong. Comparison released its poison.   I was back at that all or nothing point, allowing myself to buy the lie that if I am not the best, I need not apply.

Author Emily P Freeman says that admitting someone else could likely do it better (and probably has done it better) is freeing in itself since it takes us out of the competition mode.

Really, it’s not a matter of how many talents we have anyway but what we do with what we have.  Will we bury or invest?  Will we risk the opinion of the masses and even our own insecurity for the good of the returning Master?  Whether it is the body or our words, the precept is good stewardship.

Whatever there is - little or much - don't dig down but dig in.  And offer it UP.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Tiny Treasure

You were there weren't You Lord?  When our hearts were split open, raw and bleeding.  The day we watched our beautiful daughter rain down tears upon the newborn she cradled.  You came in the midst of our celebration, inconceivably disguised in the rags of Cystic Fibrosis and brought devastation. 

There was no way to prepare for this - our very personal 9/11.  We were floating in new baby bliss and absorbed with frilly pink dresses when the diagnosis first struck the safe fortress we had erected.  We prayed, we bargained and we denied reality.  We even dared to ask for that miracle. Minutes stretched into hours and hours into days as fear morphed into reality.

But we would relive that day again a thousand times to know the joys of this first year.  Not because You healed our baby, but because you healed us.  You gave us unending joy in the midst of circumstances we would never choose and a celebration of milestones and moments that are rendered ordinary in the absence of a life threatening disease.  A precious little girl captivates us every minute of every day, enriching our lives. In reality, we are all better people because of our Aubrey.  I now understand that You didn't cheat us. The truth is, You loved us way too much to give us the “lesser things” we thought we had to have.   Pain has seared the film from our eyes, restoring our perspective on what is good and what really matters.

Last week we celebrated her first birthday.  We sang. We clapped. And we wiped sticky frosting off of a happy little cherub’s face.  Our spirits soared in ecstasy as we watched her take hesitant steps upon wobbly legs, reaching for a future that You hold in Your Hands. 

And each time I kiss that velvety skin and see her blue eyes dance with laughter, I know it can’t get any better than this.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Singing in the Rain

Recently, a rather insignificant sentence leaped off the page - the obscure black print after the all important Red.  I was reading in the Gospel of Matthew and came across Matt 26: 30: When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 

Hymns traditionally sung at the conclusion of the Passover fellowship were Egyptian Hallel Psalms – Psalms 115-118 –and were sung as praise.  Excuse me?  Singing and Praise?  But He knew.  He knew betrayal was coming.  He knew that He would bear the weight of the sin of the world and that His Father would soon turn His Face away. He knew there would be excruciating pain and darkness would descend.  And those He loved would scatter, even one who professed allegiance unto death. 

And yet, still He sang.

Obedience moved his voice and then it moved his feet as He assumed the path of suffering for me.  He was motivated by a love that I can’t possibly grasp and He gave a gift I can’t possibly earn.

But He also knew that a time was coming when the curtain would be torn and an empty grave would cease the sting of death.  And eventually there would be no more tears.  You see Jesus understands about hard things like chemotherapy, loss of a child and divorce.  He’s been to those impossible places of suffering that look as if nothing good can come from them and He's come back with the victory. 

Most of us sing praise when we are joyful and have a kick in our step but hardly en-route to our own crucifixion.  This makes me ask myself: How do I love those I know will betray me?  How do I face my accusers? How do I walk an avenue of guaranteed suffering and put my feet to the pavement when the storm is brewing and I feel like giving up? And yet still sing?

My response will determine whether mine is a life well lived.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Divine Disruption

Interruptions.  We all have them.  The scenarios vary but essentially life is going as planned.  Then suddenly, our perceived control of life comes to a screeching halt.  Life throws us a curve, resulting in everything from minor annoyance to a major crisis.  Why can't we shut the door to these intruders?.

A closer look at Scripture reveals that God has set the stage for interruption. That’s His modus operandi.  He interrupted Mary’s life with a virgin birth, the apostle Paul’s with blindness and Christ's with a cross.  In fact, every person in Scripture who was used by God was intruded upon for the furtherance of His Glory. So why do we, as actors on the stage of life, feel we should escape the way of the Great Playwright? 

Karine Matter of Groveland, CA knows about interruption.  She will be moving her family and essential belongings for a third time this week due to wildfire.  I watched as the CNN commentator struggled to respond to her position of faith in the midst of this tragic encounter.  God used this moment to proclaim Himself over national TV.  Karine has learned that all of life is mission, even catastrophic interruption.

We too must embrace intrusion because life often happens in the middle of routine.  The Good Samaritan’s problem is also ours.  There are wounded people left along our path, often disguised as interruptions.  They are inconvenient, messy and costly.  But as God’s image bearers, this is our call.

Of course the greatest interruption of all comes in the form of God’s Grace.  It cares not for the darkness it enters.  It invades broken dreams, adulterous affairs and plastic religion.  It scoops up dead men and breathes new life into dry bones.  Though often unwanted and uninvited, it bursts upon the scene.  But oh the life that is changed!

So instead, let's view interruption as divine disruption.  For it might well be a “springboard moment” that has the power to change a destiny.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Keeping in Step

Have you noticed? There is quite a disparity between the Western World Jesus and the Biblical Jesus.

Author Mike Erre has said, “It seems in many ways we are like Jesus’ parents on the road to Jerusalem: we think He is with us, but we've moved on without Him.” 

It’s true.  I’m afraid we've left the Jesus of Scripture behind. We've replaced Him with a newer version. This one is simply a God of love who blesses and is always on call in emergencies. He's the politically correct one who never leaves the church building and grades sin on a curve.  To many, His desire is for us to be healthy, wealthy and wise.  He never offends, never interrupts and never pushes us out of our comfort zone.  He is the genie who can make all of our wishes come true.  

Tragically, we've reversed the creation order, having made Him in our image.  We've reduced him to a cliff notes version:  pocket–size and easy to "use".  He’s now a pale gray figure that camps out in the back of our minds until we have need of Him.

Western culture has cheapened Christianity because we've cheapened Him whose name it bears.

It’s time to go back and find the real Jesus.  He’s not the purveyor of the American dream.  He warns that suffering will be a part of this world and that the joy we seek will only be found in living forever in His Kingdom.  He says hard things and asks difficult questions.  And while He loves to answer prayer, it’s always centered in His Divine will.  Yes, love and forgiveness are offered but they come at a great cost - His life.   That sacrifice demands more than lukewarm faith as He longs to fill us with His Spirit so we can walk a life worthy of Him.

And that means we walk with Him, not ahead or behind.  Because when we walk out of step with the real Jesus, we lose our way Home.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Truth Tales

He appeared so small in that chair, raging against the Lord of the Universe, as if he could make an impact.  “I don’t believe in fairy tales”, he blurted out with brow scowled and head shaking defiantly.  “It’s all superstition.”

I had not initiated this conversation about faith with my atheist patient.  His vulnerability set it in motion.  The fear brimmed over with profanity, laced with the name of the One he raged against.  He wore his anger like a neon jacket - loud and attention drawing. But by his own adamant proclamation, he acknowledged the very existence of the One he denied.   Terror shone in his eyes.

And I saw the arrogance of a drowning man who insisted he could save himself in the midst of an undertow. 

I wonder when the hardening was born.  What wound failed to heal and began spreading its toxins throughout his soul.  At what point did he relinquish all hope? His words were loud but an inner cry of emptiness, fear and sadness were the main characters in this drama.  I so desperately wanted him to know the Good News.  That there IS a fairy tale and I am living it.  And the hero in this story is Jesus, the One whose name he called out so carelessly.  And no, it doesn’t make any sense from our earthly perspective but it is magnificently true and real and wonderful.  Though our minds cannot wrap themselves around God’s ways, no protest will silence His Kingdom.

But my words provided no comfort as the chains that bound him held fast.  Ironically, while he flailed himself to assuage his own pain and attempted to thwart God’s reputation, the One he railed against still loved him. 
For even a crown of thorns and nail pierced hands did not weaken His resolve to save the world.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

One Pilgrim's Progress

Spiritually speaking, I run a marathon.  There are no flashy running shoes and I am really out of shape.   Perspiration streams down the curvature of my back, my calves cramp and I advance at tortoise-like speed. Onlookers try to cheer me on but the going gets tougher. 

And then I remember my backpack.  It's weighted down with far more than I can safely carry. I really thought I needed it for success but I was wrong.  Despite its promise of fulfillment, it seems that lightening my load might make more sense.

I am on a pilgrimage to free myself from "stuff" but I assure you my toes are barely wet.  And I don’t want to over-spiritualize because there are a thousand good things that come from a clean-out.  For awhile it’s kind of fun.  It gives me a sense of control and freedom.  But then He taps that tender spot – the one I hold tightly in clenched fists... the “surely not this one, Lord! “  Yet there is His finger.  Do I truly want to “throw off everything that hinders” so I can run this race?  This is a question I must answer..

Jen Hatmaker says in her book The 7 Experiment:
"Until God asks for everything and we answer, “It’s Yours”, we don’t yet have ears to hear or eyes to see.  We’re still deaf to the truth, blind to freedom and deceived by the treasures of the world, imagining them to be the key when they are actually the lock."

There are a few caveats though to this shedding manifesto. The worm of pride inches its way into my heart oh so subtly as I congratulate myself for the sacrifice.  My heart must be cleaned out like the other areas in which I reside. And nature abhors a vacuum, so emptying eventually tempts me to refill.  Consumerism is an insidious disease.

So how do I stay on course, unencumbered with eyes on the prize when my resolve fades so quickly?  My pastor said recently: “Each day we awaken to our default mode so daily we must upload the Gospel update.”  Mind renewal for the journey.

Because the finish line is just ahead.

Friday, July 26, 2013


I am a gatekeeper.  

Much of the time it is unintentional, but by my very existence I have the potential to usher others down the Narrow Road or push them away.  I either make Jesus attractive to the world or I don't.  This doesn’t mean that everyone will like me and want to come to my “Jesus party”.  He warned us over 2000 years ago that the world would hate us because it first hated Him.  But I never want my life to be a deterrent to someone’s spiritual acuity.

It may have been though. Tragically, I walked the broad path that leads to destruction even while I bore His name. And I wonder.  How many hearts were affected by the darkness?  How many were diverted from that gate? If only I could have a second chance, I would have so much to say!  

I would tell them that the one I showed them wasn't the real Jesus.  That knowing the Truth and obeying the Truth are not the same.  But that Jesus’ love is greater than a messed up life and He is able to bring beauty out of ashes.   And I would tell them about Grace – a word that sounds so "churchy" yet I wonder if few church people truly grasp its meaning.  Because sometimes when you are in church, you don’t see yourself like you really are.  You start to see yourself as “cleaned up” and “fixed” as if Jesus were a onetime decision.  In reality, He is an every day, every minute decision.  And the walk gets more difficult yet more glorious because He asks for more and more of us.  More emptying, more sacrifice.  But oh how sweet the life!

The road beyond the gate is marked by rough terrain and it is not for the faint of heart. By its very design, it is narrow and for the masses, impassable.  But He is calling us onward.  And He has given me the awesome privilege of telling His story laced through the fabric of my own fallenness.  

For you see sometimes the Light shines best through the broken.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Pillow Talk

I lost a special little friend last weekend.  I left my pillow behind at the cabin in the North Country where we had gone with our grandsons.  I considered calling the place to see if they would send it back to me.  I can hear the conversation now: 

“Did you find an old pillow in Cowboy Cabin #4?  The one with mascara stains and drool marks on it?  Yep, that’s the one.  Hey, save that one for me, will ya.”

I decided against the call. 

But I am a little sad.  It was so comfortable and had that “Velveteen Rabbit” realness to it.  It can’t be replaced for how do you go shopping for a new pillow that comes with old memories attached? 

By nature, I am all about comfort - comfortable routine, comfortable relationships and the oxymoron of a comfortable God.  But I am sensing that along with a change in sleeping comforts, there are also other changes on the horizon.  

One morning at the first of the year, before my feet had even hit the floor, I awakened with a sentence marching across the screen of my sleep aroused mind.  It was almost palpable.

"Risk is the elimination of a dying soul." 

Risk - a word I have always tried to avoid.  I link it closely with its neighbors, fear and failure.  I was the PE student who feigned illness rather than saunter up to the Jr High sawhorse and get wedged on top.  Serving opportunities at church have to be the perfect fit so as not to expose my inadequacies.  And decisions.  I chew the options over and over again like a dog with a bone.

But since that morning revelation, I have begun to see God’s Hand gently nudging and rearranging my heart.  I am learning that only in risk is there true comfort - His comfort..  And 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 reminds me that the purpose of God’s comfort is to share it.   It is never mine to keep but is to be passed on.  

And if the One who had no place to lay His Head can comfort me, I can sacrifice an old pillow.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


My arms brim over with so many blessings I can scarcely hold them all.  But in a twist of irony, I struggle to even remember to say thank you.  Like the song says, am I “building my kingdom just to watch it fade away from You”?

Jesus told the rich young ruler that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.  Dare I assume that I am the exception to this rule?  The truth is that the likeness between us is greater than I care to admit. 

Ann Voskamp’s letter to the North American Church ( brought me to my knees.  I am hungry.  Hungry for the uncomfortable.  And I am restless.   Because I know that as I offer my gift at the altar, indeed my brother does have something against me.  For I have hoarded the world’s wealth while he goes naked, hungry and in sickness.  And isn't my abundance really holding me back from something that’s better?  Haven’t I confused having abundance with “abundant living”?  Jesus’ call was never to a life of ease but to discipleship and sacrifice.  And if I am going to take on His Name, I also want to take on His yoke.  He bent down into our world and got dirty.

Honestly, the suffering and the lost seem so far away most of the time.  And when my heart starts to bleed, I band aid the little nick with a hastily written check.   But I no longer want to stop the bleed.  Not until this insidious disease of self is reigned in. 

This will be a war but in the silence I feel the nudge.  I know there is something greater and it won’t come from accumulation but from emptying.  And I want that.  I don’t know what this will look like but I sense I am on a new journey.  Walk with me, won’t you?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Finding My Niche

I scan the pages of the writer’s blogs looking for “gray” like I’m searching for an old friend.  It’s Jr High all over again and I am looking to fit in.  All I can see are young wrinkle free faces with children running through sprinklers in abandon.  I read about problems of stolen writing time and mothering issues.  But this grandmother of five had a late season writer awakening.  How do I fit into the blog scene?  How do I offer up my years of experience all the while chronicling that which the Lord is teaching me right now and be relevant?

And then I remember Nel, a pastor’s wife whose beloved husband had already gone on to be with the Lord.  I think she had that hunger too.  She was so anxious to share her wisdom in our neighborhood Bible study years ago but we were so “in charge” and so “wise”.  I remember how we cringed each time she launched into her tirade of Biblical knowledge and experiences.  I wonder, did she go on for so long because she was afraid?  Afraid that there would be no next time?  

We should have listened more. Maybe she could have shown us how to be better wives and mothers.  And shown me how not to slip into “prodigal mode”.   And maybe, she would have eventually laid down all the right “answers” and given us a window into herself – the girl, the woman and the aged one. We might have heard not only her wisdom but the times she stumbled.  And what He had whispered in her ear and how He picked her up and walked with her and guided her.  Perhaps she would have stirred our young cocky hearts and taught us how to navigate the pot holes of living Him in this world.  Oh, we could have gleaned so very much.

I glance down at my hands on the keyboard and see my mother’s hands.  Life comes full circle.  My fingers type as thoughts spill over, filling the blank pages.  I ache to make an impact, to compel to a deeper Life and leave a legacy of Grace.  And like Nel, I hope to find a safe place where someone wants to listen.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

After the Visit

My fingernails scrape the crusty places of “milk soaked Rice Krispies met desert air” off the high chair.  I wipe small fingerprints from glass and sticky apple juice splats from the floor.  Laundry and weekend memories are each sorted in a kind of healing process.  Today I “pick up”.  And as I do, I slowly become whole again.

They are off to the Grand Canyon while we embrace the canyon within us since they left.  There are no more busy little friends clinging to us one moment and the next leading chase.   They have departed with their brief hours of sleep, the ones we all had longed for more of and left us longing for something else - the more of "them".  Bedtime kisses and night time prayers have come to an end.  No pictures of sunflowers or “sit by ME Popi” or childish delight ringing in our ears.  The dogs have stopped barking and I no longer have to steal precious moments behind a bathroom door to renew.  Because gone are the wide toothless grins and sound of bare feet down our hallways.  There is instead a deafening silence.

But how can I feel empty when I am so full?  Full of such joy, laughter and thanksgiving.   This family may be gone now but I watched him – this son of ours - who bears such a beautiful tension of tenderness and strength.  I saw him lead his precious family - touching, instructing and shaping.  And this mother smiled. For it is as it should be. 

Tomorrow morning we will awaken not to a 2 year old sweetie or a 5 year old bright eyed beauty but an alarm clock.  We will go to our respective jobs and try to return to whatever that normal was before the little ones came and sprinkled love all over us.  The house will be cleaned but never made devoid of the life that passed through its doors.  And if the Lord allows it, we will replay today’s scenario another day in the future.  And be so very grateful.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Dirt on Tomatoes

I’m obsessed with tomatoes.  Not the store bought variety that graces our winter salad bowls with colorful tastelessness, but the ones I pulled from the vine today.  Warm.  Bursting with sweet acidity.  For breakfast, lunch and dinner!  But my success was not always so.

When we first moved to the desert my experience was dismal.   Unlike the gardening conditions back east, nothing grew easily in the intense heat except for the native landscape.  But I was not to be deterred.  Two years ago I dug down deep into the brittle soil and caliche of the desert ground and replaced it with glorious top soil and compost from a nearby farm.  In effect, I created my own Edenic soil.  In the past two seasons, I have increased tomato productivity two more months by merely improving the soil.

You can probably guess where I am going with this.  In the Parable of the Sower, the seed was sown on the path (hardened soil), in rocky places with little soil, in thorny soil, and finally in “good soil”.  What made the difference in the maturation of the seed was the condition of the soil in which it was sown.  Perhaps this should be the target of our prayer as we lift up one another.   The Master Gardener knows what each seed requires for growth.  We don’t.  We pray for deliverance from suffering when in fact trials may be needed.  We pray for health and wealth when another plan may be best.   Might we be better off to leave the plan in His Hands and pray instead that God does His work in the soil of the individual heart?

While the desert soil is adequate for its indigenous flora, the soil had to be changed up for my tomatoes to thrive.  Similarly, God may have to change up the soil in a heart before one can hear, understand, and grow to maturity.  But the joy we will feel someday as we see the fruit of our prayer will far surpass an obsession with the fruit of a tomato vine.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Perfect Woman and Me

The Proverbs 31 woman was the subject of our ladies Bible study recently.  Groan.   I felt bile rise up in my throat at the very mention of her.   How many times do I have to look at this woman with all her accomplishments and abilities against my own imperfections? 

Sure, I’ll “provide portions for my servant girls” as soon as I have a few servant girls.  And how about that workday?  “She gets up while it’s still dark and her lamp does not go out at night".  I know how I feel after rising at 5 am for work and I can assure you that by 9 pm it isn't pretty!  There is no lamplight at my house unless you count the glow of the alarm clock.  And while it’s admirable that “she laughs at the days to come”, who wouldn't with all that giftedness, a husband singing her praises and kids calling her blessed? 

I confess that my attitude has been sour.  But as the group discussion continued that night, an epiphany came to me and the cloud of bitterness receded. 

We are taught that the Law, while impossible to obey perfectly, was nonetheless set up as God’s standard for His people in the Old Testament. But anyone who has read Scripture knows the Israelites were no more successful at living this perfection than we are today.   Gal 3:24 says “…the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”  In seeing the required perfection, we also see our inability to meet it.  But God in His grace presents not just the dilemma but also the solution – Jesus.

Is it not possible that this woman is of the same cloth as all other Old Testament standards?  Could she not be a composite of a woman in a perfect state rather than a guilt provoking role model against which we compare ourselves?

A woman who, rather than wagging a critical finger in our direction, in fact  points our way to Jesus.

I think I may have made a new friend.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Memory Maker

Last week was my grandmother’s birthday.  She is celebrating in Heaven these days.

I was too busy to attend her funeral years ago.  My priorities were all messed up.  My parents told me that my presence would just complicate the arrangements and I accepted the excuse.  Sure, I had just moved to the other side of the United States, had young kids and was getting settled in a new job.  But sadly I was just too busy to say good bye to the 102 year old woman who had loved me for so many years. 

The memories of a little red suitcase for overnights and hand fed apple scrapings did not occur to me.  Nor the water melon seed I planted among her roses that rewarded me with my first taste of the glory of gardening.  Or the nightly back scratches in her big poster bed or the creaking of her rattan rocking chair while the giant fan blew against my face, brushing away the wispy strands of my baby fine hair.  I did not remember her love of words that she passed on to me.  (I often wonder what she would think of her aging granddaughter now as a writer!) And I forgot how her spunky sarcastic humor entertained me and about all those little gifts she would bring out of hiding that she had saved for me when I came for a visit.  And how she loved eating peaches better than anything and how she was a great cook but never liked her own cooking because she had “messed with it”. 

Yes, I set aside all those things.  Because life comes at you fast and when you are young you forget that a time is coming when you will hopefully have made memories that someone holds onto.  

A belated birthday wish to you Mimi and even more importantly, my belated gratitude.   I remember now.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Holy Routine

I have graduated.  From the closet floor to my computer desk.  I even have a picture on the wall nearby that spells out WRITER.  I don't feel official.  Who really reads my ramblings anyway but friends, family and the occasional person who gets to my blog by mistake?

But I am certain of this: I do have a story to tell.  Because I AM A STORY.  His Story.  And so are you.

Each day is sovereignly designed by our Maker.  What if we awakened each morning with a sense of wonder?  What if we chose to see the road ahead as an adventure, approaching the mundane components of our day as opportunities for God to reveal Himself through us?

As Christians, we drink from the well of Grace.  He lovingly rearranges the broken pieces, picks up the loose threads and paints over the ugly hue of our depravity.  Each element of our day is the remaking - the masterpiece He is creating.  Because the Gospel is not just words on a page.  It's about changed lives.  And that process doesn't happen overnight but through tiny joys and a dusting of drudgery in each minute of every day.

The echo of providence resonates through our lives if we will only listen for it.  As I write, I write as a learner, hearing my own words over and over.  Not just in the finished piece, but in all the revisions.
It is there that I hear anew what God has done and is doing.

My story, your story, His story - all one really.  Even the trivial aspects of our day bear the fingerprints of the nail scarred Hand.

So like Jacob, let us wrestle.  Wrestle to see Him in our seemingly insignificant routine.  For His pen is scripting majestic strokes of glory on the pages of our ordinary lives.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Sweet Honesty

I confess Mrs V.   I really had been drinking at that high school dance.  When you uncovered it and informed my mother, I remained steadfast in denial.  Perhaps my mother wanted to believe that you were a busybody or wrong about my involvement.  She never really trusted people anyway.  Or maybe she just needed to believe me because of how it reflected upon her.

But the lie has weighed heavily upon me over the years.  Recently, I saw a picture of you on Facebook.   You are elderly but still beautiful with your perfectly coiffured gray hair.  I can just hear that sweet Southern accent.  And I wonder.  Did you know?  Did you realize that my parents were duped?  And could you ever have guessed that I would live with the shame of it?

As an adult, I have had numerous dreams about you.  In every scenario, I am stressing about what you think of me.  Usually my house is a wreck or there is some other glaring deficiency in me.  And I've wondered.  Does my obsession with you relate to the dirty little secret that we share?  Would I feel the burden lift if I spilled the truth after all these years?

Mrs V.- Are you out there?  I am really sorry that I lied.  You see, I was desperate to protect myself. I had not met Him yet.  He is my protector now.  I didn't know that it could be like this.  And you probably didn't either.  I hadn't known of love this unconditional.  But now I do.  I grieve that I may have destroyed your friendship with my Mom.  I only wish that you could know the person I am now - freed up and brand new in Christ.

And Mrs V, if you are listening, I hope you've found Him too - the One who wipes the slate clean and heals little girl's regrets.  Even when she is all grown up.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trees and Testimonies

Sadly, the Oleander must go.  I watch it out my window, the bright red flowers coloring our backyard landscape.  But it grew crooked.  Its base of support shifted with a gusty wind and now it leans to the side, just waiting for the final blow.  It seems sad to pull it up.  But it will never make it to transplant.  The roots will be exposed to the dry desert air and it has grown too large to try to nourish its tender roots again in a new location.

I, too, am crooked and lean to the side.  You see I did not always rest upon Him. And the supports that I chose were not able to hold me.  My hands formed my own idols and they would disappoint. Their tender but lying voices called to me and I bought the lies.  But God in His great mercy did not pull me up and dispose of me.

Slipping away from my spiritual home into the dark did have nasty consequences though.  I was not made to live in that place.  I became hungry, really hungry.  But far in the distance, I could see the Father.  Expectantly waiting.  He knew I would return.  How voraciously He loves wayward prodigals! Sometimes I think he carves out a special place in the curvature of His arm for ones like me.

I watch my husband sever the oleander branches.  Little by little, there is less of it.  Sweat pours off his brow as he tends to the work of the ground.  Finally there is an empty space where it stood. But other plantings once hidden are now visible.  And when I study it, I see a potential for new beauty - His beauty.

Always the Creator, His touch brings new life.

I am evidence of that.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Remembering the Cross

When I was a child, my well-intentioned mother attempted to shape my scatterbrained approach to life.  To her dismay, I was not exactly moldable.  If it rained, I left my umbrella at school.  I lost library books and misplaced numerous other items.  Each time, she would express her exasperation by saying how irresponsible I was!  But Mom was wrong.  At the core of this child was one who desperately wanted to remember.

Forgetting umbrellas and other articles may be inconvenient and frustrating but it will not affect my destiny.  Each week, I am charged with "remembering" as I partake of the Lord's Supper.  It can be a mechanical gesture or rich with intention.  It comes down to my desire.  The agony of the Cross and what it accomplished must never fade from my memory because remembering breeds thanksgiving.  And as author Ann Voskamp has noted, "thanksgiving prepares the way that God might show us His fullest Salvation."

John Newton, the Anglican clergy, former slave trader and well known hymn writer told a visitor a few weeks before he died, "My memory is nearly gone but I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.  Could it be that we have forgotten this?  Have we moved from the kingdom of death to the Kingdom of Light so casually that we have forgotten the dust at the foot of the Cross?

The prophet Jeremiah says that God "will forgive our wickedness and remember our sins no more" (Jeremiah 31:34)  He forgives much so that we can remember much.  And that may be the secret.  We dare not see our worth based upon anything other than His Grace and sacrifice.  And that is fertile ground for remembrance.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Will of God

Did you ever watch the old game show Lets Make a Deal?  The numbered doors held many possibilities ranging from ridiculous to valuable.  The problem was simply choosing the right one. Many times I think that's how we try to find God's will.  We blindly choose and hope for the best.

I confess at times my default mode is paralysis.  I don't even choose blindly.  Instead, I stand in fear despite the crowd cheering me on.  If only I could have just a clue.

There really ARE clues to be found.  Psalm 37:4 says "Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.  If read with the emphasis upon He, the verse renders its truth.  As He becomes my delight - the One with whom I long to spend time, to think about and talk about - His desires will become my desires because He will plant and nurture them in the soil of my heart.

There's also a huge difference between wanting to know God's will and wanting to do God's will. How often do I really only want His will as one of my options?  Or look to Him for consensus in a decision already made?  And oh how holy it sounds to say I am trying to discover His will!  As if He were deliberately hiding it and it was my burden to uncover it.  Could these just be tactics to avoid obedience?

A.Z. Tozer has said that "He (God) is unable to grant us our hearts desire till our desires have been reduced to one.  As I singularly pursue that Pearl of Great Price, my desires will be shaped by Him. That which is behind the door may still be unknown but I will will intimately know the One who does.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Listening to Love

It's been said that a writer needs an elevator speech and a Christian needs a 3 minute testimony.  I am a failure at both.  I've never been good at brevity.  My words and thoughts tumble over top of each other like earthworms in a jar of dirt.  I get so excited to tell a punch line that I mess up the details of a joke.  I just can't answer a question simply.  I feel like I have to give someone the whole story in one sitting.  And the problem is that I rarely get to my point.

This is why writing is my preferred communication.  I can type away, always knowing that backspacing and spell check can erase my mistakes.  The printed page can take my disorganized thoughts and put them together constructively over time.  I don't have to balance conversation or allow for interruptions while I am in the midst of expressing myself.

I am learning though that what I hear is far more important than what I say.  When I really listen, I gain amazing insight.  I learn that the world is not about me.  That really I know very little about life other than the small window open to me.  Through other's words I audibly "see" into their hearts.  I hear pain, joy, pride, need and worth.  I see people as Jesus sees them, as made in His image.  And this stretches me because my world is about me most of the time.  And that is ugly.  I learn that loving your neighbor as yourself is not an easy thing but Scripture says that the world will know who I am by my love.  And without that love, I am nothing.

Writing the thoughts of my heart is still my passion but communication is only as good as what motivates it.  And I can't spell check or backspace love.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Blogging Business

I keep tripping over the business of blogging.  There is this discomfort I find in luring followers to the things that pour from my heart.  It seems to contradict the message of the contents of my blog - that of living authentically in the Light of the Gospel.  I just can't seem to fit self promotion into that framework.

It's not that I want a Christian airplane.  You know the story...the one where the plane is pieced together out of junk.  Then when it doesn't fly, the builder says, "It must not have been God's will!"  I want this blog to fly, I really do.  And I want quality.  But I don't want to start shaking hands and kissing babies to sell my craft.

Jesus spoke to people in truth, without hook or fanfare.  He just laid it out there.  He had takers and non-takers.  But when he died at 33 years of age, he said "It is finished".  In God's sovereignty, He trusted He had reached the intended hearts.  Should my trust be any less?  And what about God, the Original Blogger?  He is followed in some of the least lovely places: in prisons, in war zones and in hospital beds.  No platforms there.  The recipients come hungry.  And perhaps that's more critical than the presentation.

Ironically, putting my thoughts into words on paper has helped to prioritize a few things for the road ahead:

I will not posture and strategize to make this blog "successful".
I would like to be read but I won't lose my joy or passion if it doesn't happen.
I will pray that the blog bears fruit, not the fruit of a following, but the fruit of spiritual
encouragement in hearts and lives.

I feel better just getting this off my chest.  Even if only One is listening.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Trusting the Mystery

He was just an average twenty-something guy with glasses - the one who left me for dead at 23. Neither of us realized our paths would cross that day. Tragedy rarely gives warning.

The pool across from the apartment was littered with those enjoying the Atlanta sunshine, its celebrants unaware that evil lurked nearby.  No one knows how long the stranger had been behind my bedroom door.  Yet at some point he could conceal his compulsions no longer.  There was the violent struggle.  The plea for breath.  And then darkness.

In an odd sort of way I felt pity for my perpetrator. The will to forgive was not difficult to forge.  Only a troubled soul could have done what he did to me. Still, I saw him in every unknown face that crossed my path.  The most difficult aspects of the attack went far deeper.  Why life and not death?  Where was God in my suffering?  How would I ever live beyond this?  The answer to my questioning was met with silence.  And then more silence.  But God's silence in my pain only served to drive me to my knees.  It was there that I discovered answers were not what were needed.  What I needed was Him.

God is not obligated to give explanation but He is always faithful to give revelation - of Himself and His ways.  I have learned over the years that He is always, always good.  And often His goodness is heard most clearly in our pain because that is when we lean into Him.  I inwardly cringe when we speak of God's goodness in blessing but never in suffering.  God was just as good when that stranger had his calloused hands around my throat as He was in my miraculous survival.

And again this week at the Boston Marathon.

And at the cross when He gave up His Son for me.

I don't profess to understand.  But in knowing God, I have learned to trust the mystery.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Easy Living

Stale winds blew through my writing this morning.  My inner two year old clutched the day to my chest as if it were mine to keep and grabbed a quick "dose of Jesus".  It was a snack, to be sure.  Tasty and delicious but nonsustaining.

Admittedly, to carve out time to sit at His feet isn't always easy.  I heard a weight loss commercial this week that said I should sign up because "it's easy and it works".  Our culture hungers for easy - the easy to swallow, an easy fix, easy money and even an easy button.  But easy is not part of a Kingdom vocabulary that speaks of dying, sacrifice and unconditional love.  Here the only ease is the ease of the yoke.

Scripture teaches that God's mercies are new every morning.  But what if today's mercies were to be mined with a pick axe, not sampled from an appetizer tray?  What if He wanted to break up the hardened soil of my rocky heart rather than fill my belly with warm milk?  This can't be caught on the run.

When the Israelites tried to squirrel away their manna it rotted.  It was only meant for the day it was supplied.  In the same way, the sweetness of my yesterdays with the Lord can be precious but never present tense.  I must linger in His presence on a regular basis to keep it fresh and living.

So tomorrow I will settle my fluffy self down for the work that needs to be done in my heart.  It's His day anyway.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Out of the Closet

It happened Friday instead of Saturday.  Company came when the house was in a mess and I was still in my PJ's.   Well, not exactly, but that's how it felt.  As the featured writer for our story circle, my secretive writings were "outed" earlier than I had planned and I was unprepared.  Typically I can be found sitting cross legged on the floor of our walk-in closet, pen hovering over lined notepads, my only audience the clothes and shoes that line the walls.  No visitors here.

I had been striving all week to put together that first official post.  Well written English compositions and clever Christmas letters hardly qualified me for this exposure.  What had I been thinking?  Suddenly everything I had ever written sounded sappy and flawed.

It's all rather silly, this fear of vulnerability.  What I think I want - the praise of fellow pilgrims - can become a road block to something beautiful and life giving.  The authors I love are the ones who let me into their struggles but bathe them in His light.  Their honesty and messiness allow me to safely enter in and catch a glimpse of majesty.  Why would I want to offer anything less?  Ironically, all my striving this past week ended in complete helplessness.  And isn't that what we are without Him anyway?

So if you don't mind an untidy place where God is a work, you are welcome here.  It's a place where we can be ourselves.  I may still be on the closet floor but I'm making it an Open House.

Saturday, March 30, 2013


I am woman shielding stones
My sins have found me out.
I am thief on the cross
I have stolen more than my share of blessings
And still claim rights to more.
I am helper in Garden.
I help myself to the forbidden
And expose those that I love.
I am Peter with foot in mouth,
Impulsive tongue untamed.
I am Elijah,
Tired and hungry in shelter of my Juniper tree
Till He finds me.
I am Jonah,
Running in disobedience
And wanting my story instead of His.
I am Mary's sister Martha,
Consumed by the urgent
Losing sight of the important.
I am David
Celebrating great victory then yielding to flesh.
Oh, the Love, Grace and Mercy of God in Christ Jesus!