Monday, December 19, 2011

His Providence

He walked into the church office with defeat written all over his face. His need was large, our benevolence fund was long gone, and the $9 I had in my purse would buy him a few more miles in his old truck, but not much else.

I recognized this man from a visit I'd made to his family's apartment to deliver food a few years ago. Sick wife, 2 sons, no work. Fast forward to this visit -- wife even sicker, still no work and about to be evicted from their apartment. "I used to have fifty customers in this area and I've gone to every single one. No one's getting their trees trimmed these days. Times are hard."

I asked him to sit down and said, "Things are really rough for you right now." He slumped forward, put his hand over his eyes and began to cry. "Yeah, it's really bad this time, and on top of everything else..." he paused, and swallowed. In almost a whisper he added, "my son tried to commit suicide last night."

The words hung there between us as the tears dripped off the end of his nose. His seventeen year old son. His namesake. His baby. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry, " he said. "I just don't know what to do."

We talked for awhile, I prayed for him. I asked for a phone number, but he shook his head. His phone had been turned off. He thanked me for the prayer and the bit of cash and left. As he walked out the door, my heart continued to ache with his pain and hopelessness. Here was a man willing to do whatever it took to provide for his family, and he couldn't. And after a day of knocking on doors, he'd remembered the church that had handed out groceries one Easter and took a chance. And barely recouped his gas money.

I saw him pause for just a second before he got into his truck as if he was mustering up the strength to go home empty-handed.

And I cried.


After church the following Sunday, an older gentleman handed me an envelope with four crisp hundred dollar bills inside. "Use this for a needy family," he said.

Now I had the money to help, but no name, address or phone number. "Oh, God," I prayed, "if you want this family to have this money, you are going to have to connect us again somehow. I have no way to reach them. It's been years between the times I have seen them, but you know exactly where they are and what they need. Bring them back."


I'm in the office. The secretary is out, so I'm the only one answering the phone. The wife calls! I explain to her how God is answering both her prayers and mine.


I hugged two very grateful, very weary people and watched them drive away with cash in their hands and fresh hope in their hearts.

And I cried again.

Monday, November 28, 2011

"I Think that I Shall Never See..."

I plan to grow more beautiful the older I get. I'm serious. I hope to be a knock-out by the time I'm 80! I see it happening all around me, and I believe it's totally doable. Here's how I know.

To me, Autumn is by far the most beautiful season. Now, I love the promise of Spring, when all the trees bud and the daffodils and tulips push through the hard ground as harbingers of sunshine. And I love the leafy green canopies of lazy Summer days.

But Autumn's beauty demands my attention. Seemingly overnight, individual trees which had blended into a sea of sameness now are blazing with identities of their own - scarlet, gold, orange, nut brown. Each one is captivating. Glorious! Their colors catch me off-guard as I round the familiar streets of my neighborhood. Individually each tree is a wonder, but together? Together they create a symphony for the eyes!

Where does Autumn get the courage to blaze so brightly? Doesn't she know Winter is coming?

You'd think Spring might be the appropriate time to be so showy. Spring, the beginning of a new life-cycle, when Winter is so far away. Instead, Spring's buds are delicate. There is a fragility in youthful beauty. The pudgy hands and rounded cheeks of an infant, the awkward legginess of an adolescent, the smooth skin of a young woman. Innocence and wonder. This is the beauty of Spring.

Summer seems like a good time for additional vivid colors. After all, the roses are blooming, the camellias, the iris... why not the maple, the ash, the liquid amber? Summer is a wonderful season. Its heat forces both rest and recreation. Summer is shooing kids outside to play and taking family vacations and eating dinner on the patio, enjoying the long, long days. Summer is getting comfortable in new roles and hitting one's stride. This is the beauty of Summer.

Autumn's beauty is different than Spring's, different than Summer's because it is not born from newness or warmth but from long, cold nights. Curiously, for the colors to be their most brilliant, a foretaste of winter's chill must be introduced. As the trees sap slows down, the sugars in the leaves stay where they are causing the color change. We might say that Autumn has suffered a little. She's endured some dark times, experienced some lonely, cold nights. But Autumn learns that suffering can produce beauty! Humility, compassion, perspective, surrender -- all of these are what make a woman beautiful.

To be sure, Winter is around the corner! Winter will take us all. There is no escaping the Winter. But, one of my favorite bible verses summarizes a godly woman's attitude toward Big Scary Winter: "She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come!"

Until Winter comes for her, Autumn displays her beauty for all to see, and carpets the world with fearless love.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pick and Pull

I attended a retreat last weekend where the speaker was a talented and passionate young woman who had powerful truths to share. Some were about God, some about herself and her own story.

These are a few excerpts from my notes:
"Most of us feel like minor characters, but God has an amazing plan for every ordinary person."

"Strength is for service, not status."

"All I wanted to do was to get back to my car and live my miserable life. It's all I knew."

"Even though I wanted Him to intervene, I didn't want Him to intervene because I knew I would have to change."

"Jesus, You are with me in my joy and in my pain. Jesus, You are with me in my joy and in my pain." I said this till I fell asleep.

"When fear and doubts assail us, we are tempted to shrink back. Instead, we are invited to move to change."

To "repent" = to re-orient our way of thinking, to alter our way of looking at the world

"The kingdom of heaven is available to those who realize they need more than this world offers."

"The One who called you is faithful, and He will do it!" 1 Thess. 5:24

So what about you? What has God been impressing on you lately?

And which of the statements above ring true in your life?

I'd really love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


This week I was called to the home of a mother who had just received news that her adult son died suddenly.

There are no words to describe a grief so profound. I felt like an interloper at the most private of moments.

Should I even be here? This pain is so new, so raw, so devastating.

She was hunched over in a chair so low her head was almost touching her knees, sobbing as if her heart had just broken.

And it had.

Through her sobs, her hands constantly folding and refolding the tissues she clutched, she would occasionally blurt out things her son would never be able to do again. He would never hold his grandson, who is due in December. He would miss his 2 year old granddaughter's birthday party this Sunday. She wondered if they should still have it? Who would explain to this little one why she couldn't see her Papa anymore? As she thought of all the people in her son's life and how they would now have no father, no grandpa, one less brother, one less friend, a fresh wave of pain would rip through her and she would be racked with sobs once again.

There was nothing for me to say. The reality of her loss and her pain defied words.

I offered what I could. I rubbed her back as she cried and brought her more tissue.

I got her water and asked her to take a few sips.

I just sat and shared her pain and wished I could take it away.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


"He must become greater;
I must become less."
John 3:30

Becoming less is not something we embrace as a society. If anything, we want to become more! More attractive, more educated, more famous, more wealthy, more secure, more in control--more, more, more!

Yet in many seasons of life, God calls us to become less. As we mature, we begin to recognize our pre-occupation with self. We marry and we learn what "two becoming one" is supposed to mean. There's a giving up of rights, a combination of sacrifices both great and small involved in developing a relationship of oneness.

We have children, and we soon realize that our hearts have expanded. We now know how it is to experience someone else's emotions as if they were our own. Meeting our children's needs becomes our priority; we willingly and gladly sacrifice to help them in every way we can.

But this new season I'm entering is one that can be more difficult to embrace. The season of the empty nest. It's a season of becoming less. As my daughters and their husbands establish their families, they will begin their own traditions. And so ours will change.

They have inlaws (wonderful inlaws, by the way), so there are other people to consider besides just us. So we will sometimes be without them when we'd like to be with them.

There will be plenty of times to be together, but there will also be many times when their lives won't be operating around ours. We are moving from hub to spoke, as it were, as they are moving from spoke to hub. It's the way it should be. It's the way it is designed to be. It is appropriate that in this season of our children's lives, my husband and I become "less."

I want my children to have the freedom to live their lives without constant fear of my disappointment. I want their thoughts of my home to be full of fun and joy, not guilt and duty.
But in order to give this blessing to my children, I must become less.

It's not in a parent's nature to let go. We find this out as soon as we leave our little ones in the church nursery, the preschool, kindergarten, junior high. We experience it over and over as they get their driver's licenses, graduate high school, and head off to college. As they grow, our roles change. And we let go bit by bit of the minutia of their lives as we learn to trust the adults they are becoming.

Still, becoming less can be very difficult. It requires a mindset determined not to take things personally when my expectations aren't met. I must choose flexibility and not cling too tightly to my own agenda. I must stay away from passive aggressive attempts at control or emotional manipulation. I must check my own heart to see if what I'm giving my daughters truly meets the criteria of 1 Corinthians 13's definition of love- the kind of love my Father in heaven gives me.

And now I see why my becoming less is contingent upon Jesus becoming greater! That is the key! As I release my children to the Lord, He fills up that empty space, and helps me process my emotions. I'm not depending on anything outside of Him to make me happy because, as always, He is helping me choose a happiness not based on my circumstances.

I can be whole and contented and an integral part of my daughters' lives without having the need to manage their lives.

All of life's journey involves change. And change always brings up to the surface our fears, our neediness, our inadequacies. And yet, Christ always meets us in broken places! He has woven into the tapestry of our lives many many seasons of change so He can enter in to these very areas we have so carefully tucked away, bring them to the light, and heal us. Grow us. Mature us.

He loves to help us become less.
Less selfish.
Less bound.
Less fearful.
Less demanding.

In order to be the kind of mother I want to be,

He must become greater;

I must become less.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Last night I was hosting a dinner/meeting in my backyard for about twenty leaders of various ministries in our church. We had a great time together eating and laughing and were just starting to get down to business when the sliding glass door opened and out came my two adorable grandbabies in their jammies for goodnight kisses from Grammie.

The kids stood shyly in the doorway as my daughter asked us to excuse the interruption, but Evie had insisted she couldn’t go to bed without her good night kisses. My daughter told me later that she had tried to explain that Grammie was in a meeting, but Evie looked at her determinedly and said, “She will WANT to kiss me, Mama! I KNOW it!!”

Of course, from the second I had seen them in the doorway, my arms had been open wide. The meeting could wait, my guests could wait – these little people have my heart, and they are well aware of it. They ran right to me, I wrapped them in my arms, kissed their precious heads and thanked them for remembering to come give me kisses.

That moment was the most special of my day.

As I lay in bed last night, I thought of this passage in Hebrews :

And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him.” (Heb. 10:19-20)

My daughter's little ones trust my love for them. They know that I will want their kisses no matter how busy I seem. They know they are my priority and that my affection for them is assured no matter what the circumstance. Their presence is not only welcomed, it is longed for.

I am so grateful I serve a God who went to such great lengths to open the way for me to have the same kind of assurance of His love for me! Jesus died to cleanse me of the guilt and shame and sin that kept me from believing God’s love for me could ever be pure and true and unconditional. He washed away that lie, and He shows me evidence every day of His attentive care.

You see, it’s not that God doesn’t love us the way we long to be loved; it’s that we can’t believe God could ever love us that way because we are so very aware of our deficiencies. It’s the sin/shame combination that keeps us from experiencing the love that is already ours.

But His love "always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." His love never fails.

He’s always ready to scoop us in His arms because we already have His heart!

Let's run in.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Evening Post

The link above is to blogger I follow, Elizabeth Esther. She had this great idea of bloggers sharing their favorite post of the month on her site, and the readers get to peruse new writers each week!

Check out her blog and some of the others when you have time. It's a great way to find people whose perspective might just speak to you. :)