“When did we get the papers?”
The question posed by my husband was seemingly harmless, but I framed it a completely different way in my head.
I felt like I was on the witness stand.
There was no “we” in this scenario.
I was the one who got the papers.
I was the one who had missed a section to complete.
Even though our conversation was over the phone, I could clearly see his eyes rolling at me from his office.
It was my fault.
And so before my morning coffee, I became that version of myself that I try to keep at bay.
The one who forgets to lead with love and grace, and focuses on what is happening around me.
This side of me quickly becomes defensive and insecure.
At the core is just a little girl in a woman’s body trying to do everything right and does not always feel like she measures up.
Maybe I am not alone in my doubts.
Do you wage battle in your mind in the territory of worthiness?
By the world’s standards, there are many ways we fall short.
But God does not see us as the world sees us, or even as we see ourselves.
He only sees us through the eyes of His great love.
We tend to look at our circumstances and surroundings.
Paul could have easily done that while he was in prison.
He could have felt unworthy, insecure or angry at his situation.
Paul reminds us in Ephesians 4: 2 of the calling we have to “be humble and gentle; patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your great love.”
I am so grateful for my husband’s patience with me, and more importantly for the Father’s patience with us all.
Insecurity can shift our focus inward instead of upward.
Paul could have focused on himself, but he framed his situation in a different way and pointed to the Creator.
“When I think of the wisdom and scope of God’s plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will give you the mighty inner strength through His Holy Spirit. And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in Him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love really is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then, you will be filled with the fullness of life and the power that comes from God.”
May your roots go deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love, friends so that you might share it with others.
I plopped down on the lounge chair with my book and a raspberry lime seltzer.
The music of the birds chirping was the only sound that cut through the silence.
No phones or electronic devices.
The rays of the sun were dancing on the crystal blue pool water.
I drank in the serenity of the moment.
It was the perfect pause.
The hustle and bustle of the previous weeks faded away.
I surveyed the scene before me when something in the water caught my eye.
A single leaf.
It was in the shape of a heart.
It cast a perfect shadow of another heart below the surface.
A sense of awe swept over me.
What a beautiful gift from above.
“Give praise to the Lord; proclaim His name; make known among the nations what He has done. Sing to Him, sing praises to Him; tell of all His wonderful acts. Glory to His holy name; let the hearts of those who seek Him rejoice. Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”
Psalm 105: 1 – 4
I lingered there to enjoy this gift that the Creator had chosen to present at just that moment.
Simplicity and extravagance wrapped into one.
Maybe someone else would have just seen a leaf.
But those who seek Him can see reflections of His love everywhere.
“Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always.”
These are the moments that restore my strength and give me energy to face whatever is next in this journey called life.
And just like plants harness energy from the sun through the process of photosynthesis, we can also draw our energy from the Son.
What snapshot from your day do you recognize as a gift from the Creator?
Where do you see His love ?
“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your life in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2: 6-7
I have a confession to make.
I did not know until recently which end of an onion was the root end.
But after attending a cooking demonstration, not only did I learn which end was which, but also that the root served a useful purpose.
The stringy end will actually keep the onion from falling apart when slicing it.
The root holds the onion together.
I love how God speaks a word into my heart even in what may appear to be a mundane task.
There have been many moments when I felt like I was falling apart.
It is easy to get caught up in myself, my circumstances or my emotions.
And when that happens, thankfulness is far from my heart.
Maybe you know what I mean.
If I am solely focused on me, I am only scratching what is on the surface.
But when I go deeper, I find that I am rooted in something much bigger than myself.
I am rooted in Him.
Paul reminds us in Colossians 2:2 that his goal is that we “be encouraged in heart and united in love”.
I am not united with anyone when I am thinking only of myself.
I do not feel encouraged or together.
I feel bitter, sad or inadequate.
But when we are rooted in Him, and life tries to slice and dice us, we will not fall apart.
When we receive Christ and He lives in us, we are strengthened in faith.
We are less likely to be torn apart from our brothers and sisters in Christ and are more unified as a whole.
Thankfully, we can identify the root of our strength and love.
Christ keeps us together.
He is the root of all good things.
We are all in the same boat.
This was my thought as I scanned the room of parents surrounding me at my son’s Freshman Orientation.
Up to this point, we had parented our children with some success as they had all been accepted to this institution of higher education.
And yet, for some of us, it was like being parents for the first time.
Our children, technically now adults, would be navigating the waters without us.
And we would be learning to walk through the doors of our homes daily, grappling with the fact that they would no longer be in their rooms.
It is a level of trust that we have built up to with each passing year.
First steps away from our embrace.
First time going out and leaving them with a babysitter.
First time watching them get on the school bus.
First time watching them drive to school on their own.
Each moment a building block, every time a little longer and a little further away.
We are all in the same boat.
I hear the comments out of the mouths of others and the ones that I ask in my own head.
As we toured the campus, it was hard not to be distracted by the possibilities of the things that could happen instead of focusing on the building blocks that have been assembled.
I began to wonder if this is how Peter felt in the presence of Jesus.
Peter and the disciples spent their days listening to Jesus deliver His message to the masses, witnessed Him heal the sick, restore the sight of the blind, cast out demons and raise the dead.
And on one particular day, after Jesus performed yet another miracle by feeding over five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish, He asked Peter to trust Him in a way He had never done before.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of HIm to the other side,
while He dismissed the crowd. After He had dismissed them, He went on a mountainside by
himself to pray. Later that night, He was there alone, and the boat was a considerable distance
from land, buffered by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn, Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.
When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified.
“It’s a ghost,” they said and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” He said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.
But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately, Jesus reached out His hand and caught him.
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” Matthew 14: 22-31
Focusing on what is around me instead of keeping my eyes fixed on Him, it is no wonder I have that sinking feeling as I learn to let go and trust more deeply than ever before.
Peter did not sink until He took his eyes off Jesus.
The amount of miracles he had witnessed were almost forgotten when he was asked simply to believe that Jesus had him.
In my heart, I know that up to this point in my life, He has had me, too.
Whether we are sending our first child off to college, dealing with health concerns, suffering the loss of a job or relationship, He has us.
So take courage, friends, Don’t be afraid.
He is always there to reach His hand out and catch us, no matter how many times we feel like we are sinking.
We are all in the same boat.
Mornings are my quiet time.
Coffee and conversations with our Creator.
He always has a word for me if I pause long enough to listen.
And on this rainy morning, God showered love on my aching heart in a way that only He can.
Today, it will be 7 years since my mother left this world to join my father and our Heavenly Father.
It was a day when the colors of the world around me seemed to dull.
And the sounds around me went deafeningly quiet.
For the second time in 8 months, I turned off the oxygen machine that helped sustain my parents, who both suffered with lung cancer.
There would be no more humming sounds from the machine.
But today as I reminisce about Mom, a new sound gently replaces the silence I remember.
Outside I hear birds harmonizing together through the sound of the falling rain.
What a surprisingly beautiful combination.
Birds singing in the rain.
They sing despite their circumstances.
God always has a way of reminding me to find beauty in all situations
Although my heart yearns for conversations with Mom, I find comfort in God speaking through His word.
Hosea 6: 3. “Let us acknowledge the Lord; let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth.”
In our bleakest moments, He will appear.
When our soul feels empty, He will saturate us with His love, like the rain waters the earth.
Friends, find some quiet time for our Creator.
He will speak if you pause long enough to listen.
Let Him shower love on you today in the way only He can.
Some days there are no words, just heavy sighs,
The unthinkable happens.
Without warning or explanation, the landscape of a life is drastically changed forever.
And like watching a movie in slow motion, there is nothing that those watching can do to stop the devastation that is about to occur.
Slowly, painfully the next moments unravel.
An ending has been rewritten for what was supposed to be a beautiful story.
It rocks us to our foundation and leaves us feeling vulnerable.
Because deep in our spirits, at any given moment, we know that the main character in the story could be us.
In the scene that is unfolding, those surrounding the main character have few lines.
But the scene does not work without the supporting cast.
In moments when life is unbearably hard, we become unsure of our lines.
We are not scripted with what to say.
We are not called to have all the answers.
We are simply called to be present.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
When we read the story of Lazarus, Jesus approaches Mary his sister as she is grieving for her brother.
Jesus, moved with compassion, weeps with her.
The briefest line in the Bible is one of the most powerful.
“Jesus wept.” John 11: 35
No speeches or sermons.
Jesus stays present with Mary as she mourns.
He stays with her in the hard places.
His presence was a gift far greater than any words He could have offered.
A model of how to be part of the supporting cast for those we love facing unspeakable grief.
Some days there are no words, just heavy sighs.
Be present in the hard places.
Because two are better than one.
An empty gymnasium, lined with folding chairs on the floor and bleachers waiting to be filled by anxious parents.
Today is Moving Up Day.
Later this afternoon, the class of 2019 will take their spots at the front of the gym, with the class of 2020 filing in directly behind them. This time honored tradition is an opportunity for seniors to pass the baton to juniors.
Awards and scholarships are handed out as students are recognized for their achievements, all the while parents are drinking in the picture of their son or daughter in the final moments of their senior year.
Excuse me while I clear the lump from my throat.
At the very end, the senior class rises up from their seats, and marches as a group out of the school. The juniors then move up into the senior seats.
And just like that, they are out of our sight.
Truthfully, the weeks leading up to graduation have been pretty emotional for me.
I am pretty confident I am not alone in my ugly crying moments here.
But those moments are not brought on by what I can see now, but of what I cannot picture around the corner.
No picture on my son’s first day of college classes (although I would totally embrace the idea if he allowed it).
There will be no gymnastics to get everyone out the door in the morning, no “make me something yummy, Mom” after school, and heartbreakingly no more “I need a proper hug” in the evenings before heading up to his room.
Picturing him not here…it is hard to find the words.
But I remember the day that I found out I was pregnant with Jon.
And that was when my prayers for him began.
For a healthy delivery, for those nights when he was teething, for his first steps, heading to preschool, into the big school….
And now as he takes these next steps moving up and moving away.
“I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him.” 1 Samuel 1:27
What a glorious gift it has been to be your Mom throughout these past 18 years.
And I will continue to pray for you and your friends, even in the moments I can no longer see.
I know that He will be watching over our children.
Parents, He will be watching over us, too.
There is a glorious adventure waiting just for you.
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
It’s a really beautiful day in Pennsylvania.
Today is 143 Day.
I consider myself to be fortunate enough to have grown up with Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Each day, this gentle man opened the door to his house, put on a comfy cardigan, and invited you in with this heartfelt question:
Won’t you be my neighbor?
The Neighborhood of Make Believe was accessible only a trolley, transporting children from across the country to a magical place from the comfort of their own homes.
Some of you are singing the theme song in your head at this very moment.
But as an adult, the song that was part of the soundtrack of many childhood memories now carries a different meaning.
“I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you,
I’ve always wanted to live in a neighborhood with you.”
Rogers not only posed the question, but also seemed to capture that longing that we all feel – the desire to connect with one another.
“Won’t you please, won’t you please,
Please won’t you be my neighbor?”
Over and over the same question is asked, a gentle pursuing of the audience to be a part of something bigger.
And so today, on this 143rd of the year, Pennsylvania honors one of its most beloved neighbors, by challenging residents to share acts of kindness and reflect on how grateful we are to have each other.
143 was chosen as Rogers would use this as a special code for I Love You (this was based on the number of letters in each word).
Friends, we are encouraged to share acts of kindness and reflect with gratitude daily as Christians.
365 days a year.
From the very beginning, our heavenly Father wanted to be in community with us.
“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as He was walking in the garden in the cool day…..” Genesis 3:8
He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.
He wants to walk with us now.
He gently pursues us, from all neighborhoods across the globe.
He challenges us to love Him and those around us.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it:
Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22 : 37-38
It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.
Love your neighbor as He loves you.
For some people, Wednesday is considered hump day.
In our house, Wednesday is Survivor night.
If you are not familiar with this reality show, now in its 38th season, let me give you a quick summary. A group of men and women, all ages and backgrounds, are marooned on an island. They must work together in teams to survive the elements and challenges until only one person remains. The grand prize is one million dollars.
Our family piles on the sectional, eager to watch whatever challenge will unfold and which tribe member will be voted off the island.
On this particular night, the challenge will bring the most coveted of all rewards: time with a loved one.
On the island for over a month now, separated from parents, spouses and children, each tribe member gets a brief moment to be reunited with a loved one.
To be able to embrace a husband, mother or son after what probably feels like an eternity of being apart….what a reward!
Overcome with emotion, they leap into each other’s arms.
I can feel the tears trickling down my face.
What I wouldn’t give to be able to put my arms around my Mom or Dad one more time.
These few precious moments will be multiplied for the winner of the challenge.
I cannot recall what obstacle had to be overcome, but I remember my heart immediately breaking for those who would have to say goodbye to their loved ones.
Saying goodbye to someone we love is one of the hardest challenges we will face in this life.
Not a day goes by that I do not long to have one more conversation with my parents.
But there will come a day when I will be able to embrace them again.
The reward we receive as Christians is that we get to spend eternity with our loved ones, not just a few precious moments.
Christ took the challenge for us, so that we could all share in this priceless reward.
Because Christ went to the cross for our sins, we receive a reward that is worth far more than a million dollars.
We receive the gift of eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
This is the promise that I hold close to my heart. The one that gives me hope.
And unlike Survivor, where only one is chosen, everyone can share in this reward.
“My Father’s house has many rooms.” John 14:2
What a joyful day it will be when there are no more goodbyes!
Friends, the only challenge left for us is to believe in Him and accept this priceless gift.