…conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;…

1 Peter 1: 17

Last year, my husband and kids and I went on vacation to Atlantic City for the week. We stayed at a really nice hotel until Friday, and then Jeremy and I decided to extend our trip through the weekend. But when we went to the front desk to ask about staying longer, they were completely booked.

So, we were researching other affordable places to stay for Friday and Saturday night.

Jeremy is……

Thrifty.

But that word doesn’t really cover just how THOROUGHLY “thrifty” he is.

Long story short, we arrive at our new spot…..

The outside of the motel looked completely dilapidated.

The INSIDE…..

(Cue the Psycho music…)

It was just nasty!!

The sink and bathtub were rusty, the floors were dirty, and basically everything about the place seemed to scream,

“Run away as fast as you can! Lots of people have been hacked to pieces in your room!!!” ( Thank you, Criminal Minds.😑😑)

Now that we’re not there anymore, I can laugh about how horrible it was.

But at the time, Mama was SOOO NOT LAUGHING!

Jeremy tried to talk me down off of the ledge….

” Honey, it’s only for a couple of nights. It’ll cost us nearly nothing. Do you think you can handle this place just for a little while?”

Well, he called me “honey”, so, of course, we stayed.😊

Our “stay” here on earth is like staying at a crappy motel.

It’s dirty, and it’s awful…

But, it’s only temporary.

When you give your life to Jesus, we are promised a place that is indescribably beautiful.

A place of no sickness,

No pain,

No sin of ANY kind,

NO sadness,

NO loss…

But instead, it is a place crammed and jammed full

Of peace,

Love,

Joy,

Contentment,

Wisdom….

Basically , it’s filled with everything we’ve been missing down here.

You know, I really did try to have the best attitude I could muster during our stay at the “Bates Hotel”.

I told myself over and over,

“It’s only for two days….it’s only for two days.”

And you know what?

I had FUN.

We went swimming in the paint chipped swimming pool,

Micah and I raided the vending machines for chocolate and candy on more than one occasion,

And we found joy in those moments.

I think that kind of attitude speaks to how we should be during our stay on earth.

Yes, there are a million things that anger us,

Disappoint us,

And seek to BREAK us.

But it IS possible to have joy here, with the people we love, serving the God we love and will soon be with in heaven,

Knowing that in just a little while

Just a little while….

We will be

HOME.

Just A Little While

I’m there right now.

I’m in that dark place…

That place that is black, and cold…

And empty.

I don’t much like company when I’m here,

In that dark place.

So, I hide.

And I try to not answer the “How are you?’s”,

Because you can never be sure they really want to know.

So, it’s just easier to stay inside, and

“Keep it to yourself.”

Did anyone else grow up hearing those words?

If you were feeling anything less than FANTASTIC, you were hushed with

“Keep it to yourself.”

No wonder we don’t know how to share the dark and twisty places of

Our hearts.

But I AM learning that there is One who knows…

One who never gave a glib answer because He didn’t want anyone to be uncomfortable.

There is One who will crawl into that crazy, tar-colored tunnel…

Just to BE with us.

To hear what our hearts desperately want to say.

God holds us in His hand until the pain stops,

And then He holds us some more.

We break sometimes.

We lose pieces of ourselves as we walk through this life…

Like breadcrumbs dropped along the way,

Praying SOMEBODY finds us.

Well, Somebody DID.

AND He’s the best Somebody out there.

He doesn’t want any of us sitting alone in the dark.

That’s why He climbs in WITH us.

Because He loves us in an otherworldly,

Unearthly kind of way.

He brings light where there is none,

Shelter when we’re beaten.

I don’t think I’m ever going to understand His love for me.

And I’m okay with that.

I’m okay with being utterly LOST in His love…

Not knowing where He ends,

Or where I begin.

I’m okay with not understanding how He can love me,

Exactly like this.

Whenever I’m in this place, I will work on being as honest as I can….

But I will remember that God is the only One who will NEVER leave me,

Never walk out.

He’s the Somebody I can’t even see.

He’s the Somebody who never looks away from my mess.

He’s the One who calls it “beautiful”.

We are ALL so very broken….

And all we really want is for somebody to say,

“I SEE you.”

“In all your sin, sorrow, pain, and shame,

I see you…and I’ve got you.”

That’s all we want somebody to say…..

That’s all we want somebody to do.

Well,

Somebody DID.

How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings. They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures. For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.

Psalm 36:7-9

Somebody Did

My friend, Sarah, who I’ve mentioned a couple of times before wrote something pretty profound once about prayer.

You see, she had lost her second child just hours, or mere minutes after she was born. And she knew her daughter would most likely die at the 20 week appointment.

So, she had to LIVE with that news, and all the tragic thoughts surrounding that for almost ANOTHER 20 weeks!

Sarah had her baby, Evie,

And she passed away.

Sarah went on to have a healthy baby about a year or two later.

Then, Sarah was pregnant again.

But this time the news at the 20 week appointment was the same as it was for little Evie.

She knew she was facing the death of ANOTHER of her precious babies.

I won’t get into all the heartbreaking details here, but I DO want to talk about something she wrote. She had this to say about how she was praying somewhere in the middle of those last 20 weeks:

All too often my prayers are, Lord, please just … I don’t know. Just … the best.’ “

So many times, all I really want to pray for is the thing I simply want most.

NOT the thing that would be ultimately the BEST thing for my life, or anybody else’s…

Just what I WANT.

And now,

After many years of struggle, and the knowledge building in my soul that Jesus is my anchor and my very best friend,

I’m not sure that what I WANT is truly what I NEED anymore.

I’ve heard a lot of preaching on this subject, and it leaves me feeling it’s okay to pray for what we want.

I mean, there are tons of examples in the Bible of people who came to Jesus for healing for themselves, or for someone they love, and they asked for something they WANTED.

And God said yes.

So, there is definitely room for those kind of prayers.

But there is a deep, scarred wisdom of my friend’s prayer for “just….the best” that reminds me of ANOTHER wise Person’s prayer:

Our Father in heaven,

Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.

Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.

And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen

Matthew 6

YOUR WILL be done.”

I’m not that wise.

I usually have no idea how to pray for MYSELF, let alone anyone else!!!

I know I don’t want pain,

I know I don’t want heartbreak,

I know I don’t want to be sick….

And I don’t want any of the people I love to ever have any of those things, either.

But…

What if……..

What if those things are the VERY TOOL He plans to use to bring people….people you may also LOVE, to Himself?

That changes EVERYTHING!!!!

Uggggghh.

There are days when I can only see ME.

What I WANT.

Like a little child.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t be trusted to ask Him ANYTHING,

Because there’s still too much “me” in me.

But I DO know what I sincerely want, when I’m thinking of how much I am loved by God…

I want just….

Only….

Always….

His BEST.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

2 Corinthians 4:16

How To Pray When We Don’t Know What To Say

So he said to Him, “O my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.

Judges 6:15

This passage is from a story about Gideon, an unlikely hero of the Israelites.

22,000.

That’s the number of men Gideon had to fight the dreaded Midianites.

But God was concerned that , with the gigantic size of their army, that THEY would get the glory for this win….

And not HIM. (Judges 7:2)

So, God did what He LOVES to do. He whittled away at their numbers until the 22,000 became only 300!!!!!

To Gideon, it looked IMPOSSIBLE!

How many times do we find ourselves in seemingly impossible situations?

” Look at me! How can I save Israel?”

Or…

“Look at me!! How am I supposed to get all of this done??”

“How am I supposed to go on living without this person in my life?”

“How am I supposed to keep loving when I get nothing back?”

“How am I supposed to live with this pain?”

” How can I DO this???”

And the Lord said to him, “Surely I will be with you”

Judges 6:15

THAT’S HOW.

When He is with us, He is, really, all we need.

He makes what FEELS impossible…

Possible!!

He can dig through the darkest of tunnels and tombs, and

Find light….

And life!!

He can use the weakest of us to pull off the most POWERFUL

VICTORY!!!!!!!!!

The fact that He’s “there” with us might not seem like much, but that’s because we can’t usually FATHOM the concept.

Eph. 1:19, Roth.: According to the energy of the grasp of His might.

I love this translation!

THIS is how He wants us to see what He does during those hard times.

He wants us to know that we are

HELD,

In His grasp!

It no longer becomes about “grasping onto HIM,”

Because the grasp capability of OUR hands doesn’t really matter much.

It’s the grasp of HIS Hand

That matters.

Listen.

When we’re up against impossible tasks,

We make a grave mistake when we look to our OWN hand, our OWN strength,

Our OWN power.

We, instead, should be looking to HIS power,

HIS strength,

HIS Hand.

Because that’s where things that seem impossible….

Become possible!

The Impossible!!

And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die. “These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.

Numbers 4:15

So Moses took the carts and the oxen, and gave them to the Levites. Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service; and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the authority of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.

But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders.

Numbers 7:9

Now, these may seem like relatively ho-hum verses found in the Bible, but I am learning that there are ZERO ho-hum verses in that Book!

The ones above are anything but!!!!!!!

You see, the Ark of the Covenant, which was essentially the very presence of God in the Old Testament, was among some of the holy things the sons of Kohath were instructed to carry on their shoulders.

Now, the Ark weighed somewhere between 300 and 600 pounds, and was traditionally carried by only four men.

So you have a clear idea of how much this weighed,

Think of a casket.

An empty casket weighs around 200 or 300 pounds. Add the weight of a person, and you get a little closer to the weight of the Ark.

Now, a casket is usually carried by 6-8 men.

The weight of the Ark is still heavier than a casket, yet it is carried by HALF the number of men!

That holy thing was HEAVY!!!!

And it was never meant to be carried in any other way, but on the men’s shoulders.

Why???

And why were these seemingly insignificant verses included in the Bible anyway???

It was the Kohathites’ sacred duty to carry all of the holy things on their shoulders, and they were the only group that was not given wagons or carts to help them carry them during all their journeys from one land to another.

“Why must they carry those heavy burdens on their shoulders when their cousins had bullock carts? If such thoughts ever came, perhaps they found help in remembering that to them was committed the care of the most precious things, things too precious to be carried in any other way (Num. 3:31).”

Amy Carmichael

I guess I’m echoing Amy Carmichael’s thought this morning.

I put myself in their position.

It’s kind of like a “family business”.

Or a SUPER SACRED family business.

I would imagine that, no matter the honor that was theirs for carrying the ALMIGHTY GOD’S most holy things, there were days that the weight of those most precious items became taxing, and maybe even days that it was just

Too much to carry.

What are OUR most holy things?

Definitely His Presence!

How do we enter IN to be there, with Him?

Prayer and praise are the first things that come to my mind.

And although, it is such a holy place to be,

A holy Thing to touch,

A sacred and awe-filled privilege…..

It is not always easy for us mere mortals.

The weight we sometimes are called to carry makes it difficult to always get a glimpse of Him.

But when we push past the ache in our shoulders,

The ache in our hearts,

And we see Him??????

Wow, what a holy thing it is!!!!!!!

And far “too precious to be carried in any other way.”

Heavy Weight

I was having breakfast with a very close friend and mentor of mine this week. And she said something that shook me.

I mean, it was something I already knew,

but it was in the way that she said it….

Wow. The weight of it.

She said, ” You know, your situation may never change. It may never improve. It could stay just this way….

For the rest of your life.”

I guess I hadn’t thought about the length of time I might have to endure things being painful, strained, and…just plain hard.

How long I would have to feel “not at home” in my home.

How long I would have to love without getting much in return.

How long I would have to be in physical pain and physical weakness.

For the rest of my life.

Maybe you’re like me.

Maybe you’ve lost something or someone….

And now you have to be without that thing or that person…

For the rest of your life!

Is there anything more daunting than that????

Well, it’s going to require that I sit close to Jesus for the “rest of my life”, if I’m going to make it!!

He’s going to have to be my Home.

He’s going to have to be my peace in the middle of pain.

One thing have I desired, my God, of Thee,

That will I seek: Thine house be home to me.

I would not breathe an alien, other air;

I would be with Thee, O Thou fairest Fair.

For I would see the beauty of my Lord,

And hear Him speak, who is my heart’s Adored.

Amy Carmichael

When I read Amy’s words, I cry.

The things God has to do to make me seek Him and WANT Him!

I wish I wasn’t this way

So stubborn and full of myself.

But NOW, God being my Home is such a comfort to me.

I’ve been insulted, wrongly blamed, and often felt unloved.

I’ve been struck down in my body over and over again.

And without a miracle, these things will all continue

For the rest of my life.

So, I NEED to see Jesus as my Home,

My Place where I’m always welcome, loved, and SEEN.

Please Jesus,

Be my Home.

Home

When I cry out to You, Then my enemies will turn back; This I know, because God is for me. In God (I will praise His word), In the Lord (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid.

Psalm 56

Last week was the Super Bowl, and it was the first one I actually watched in many, many years.

I couldn’t resist a classic underdog tale!

Since Joe Montana retired from football twenty-some years ago, I haven’t had a favorite team.

No one to really root for,

Until the Eagles made history in my living room over cheese and crackers.

It was such a great ending!!

Wouldn’t it be nice to have your very own cheering section?

People who would wave your banners, fly your flags,

And wear your jersey number, letting EVERYBODY know YOU were their favorite player?

Truth is, not a whole lot of us have a cheering section.

Some of us often feel like no one even sees us fighting at all.

I once heard this story about a young man, playing football. He was the kicker for the team, and each time he had to kick that ball for an extra point, and sometimes for the WINNING point, he would scour the stands, looking for the one person who He KNEW would be cheering him on.

His dad.

We have one of those, too.

A Father.

A Father who is FOR us!

A Father who is flying our flags,

Waving our banners,

And wearing our numbers on His back.

We have a Father who is cheering us on as we

Fight to keep jobs,

Marriages,

Families,

And sometimes our own sanity.

We have a Father who is

Screaming our name

As we sweat through heartache,

Illness,

Deep failure,

And great losses.

He screams because He wants us to finish STRONG…

Trusting Him through ALL of it.

God chants your name

Through every victory

And every blow.

He will never stop rooting for YOU.

There’s absolutely NOTHING you could ever do that would make Him take your jersey off and put it away in a drawer somewhere.

Nothing you do will ever keep Him from waving your banner and flying your flags!

Because God is FOR you,

In a way no one else could possibly be!

So, look for your Father in the crowd….

Scour the stands for Him!

He will be the one,

Flying your flags.

Cheerleader

My new favorite show is Somebody Feed Phil. This show is so wonderful for a foodie like me!

Phil Rosenthal, who was the creator of the show Everybody Loves Raymond, travels to different places around the world, to explore all the amazing foods each country has to offer.

Did I mention I love this show???

I did??

Okay, I’ll move on.😊😊

One of the places Phil visits is Vietnam, and he explores a rural area, where the people harvest lotus flowers, among other things.

The lotus flower is the national symbol of Vietnam, a place with a history of great strife, and of great renewal.

The Lotus grows right in the middle of mud.

The stems and the roots are very long, and the blossom grows up, and out of the muck, and is so very beautiful!

Despite the impurities all around it, all the things that try to suffocate and snuff out its survival,

It LIVES.

It BLOOMS.

And it blooms BEAUTIFULLY.

This is my spirit flower!!

At least, I WANT it to be.

Maybe it feels like it’s yours, too.

All the dirt and grime that desperately tries to squash us like bugs,

Is the very thing that makes us grow,

And to stand TALL.

He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps.

Psalm 40:2

You know something else??

The seeds of a lotus can survive up to two hundred YEARS of drought!

This brings me comfort too, because it means my times of spiritual desert land are survivable.

Those wilderness times won’t last forever.

One last thing about the lotus:

The Vietnamese people use every part of the plant.

The stems, the leaves, the flower, the seeds…

They use ALL OF IT.

I really and truly do hope and pray that God can use EVERYTHING in ME, too.

My past, my parents, my marriage, my health, my kids…

I want God to use ALL of it.

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.

Philippians 2:17

Lessons in the Lotus

There used to be a series of programs on PBS called Create. There were cooking shows, DIY programs, craft shows…

I loved watching all the cooking shows.

They would take same old, boring ingredients and create a brand new, mouth-watering dish that always looked amazing!

You see, I think most of us are born with the desire…

The craving…

The NEED…

To create.

I especially think this is true, since we are made in the image of God.

And the very first thing He ever was to any of us was

Our Creator.

God’s passion for creating wasn’t squelched on the sixth day.

He is constantly

CREATING!

Flowers, creatures, water, air…

He creates them every day.

But He is also in the business of creating US.

Not just “us”, as humans,

But YOU and ME.

Did you ever think about that?

He is DAILY “creating” us.

We will never be the finished product of all of His dreams for us until the day He comes, or the day WE come to Him.

He is, on a moment-by-moment basis, creating us in His own image…

Refining us,

Chiseling away at our sculptures,

Polishing His very own prize…

Each and every day!

If we get another day, it is another chance to be created by our Father and the best Artist ever!

That’s why I never really liked the term “second chances”,

Because we certainly don’t get just two!

My favorite group, Rend Collective, has a line in one of their songs…

“Countless second chances

Is what I’m given at the cross.”

He is constantly creating new opportunities for growth…

Growth, into the person we were always meant to be.

Creating new and unusual ways for us to experience real joy,

Real peace,

Real humility,

Real grace.

I love this idea of daily being created!

It’s a beautiful kind of BECOMING…

One that never ends!

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.

2 Corinthians 4:16

Countless Second Chances!





I’ll refresh tired bodies;

I’ll restore tired souls.

Jeremiah 31:25 MSG



I’m having one of those days. 
Maybe you’re having one, too.
The kind of day where you’re just so tired of it all.

Of everything.
The constant climb up the side of the mountain, fighting so hard to get out of that Valley.
The neverending pain.
The shame that forever lurks in the shadows of who you once were.

Whatever it is, the “constantness” of it…..

Can, some days, be too much.

“Enough already!!!”, you shout at absolutely no one.

I read this little verse written above…

My body is soooo physically TIRED!!!

My body has been put through so much!!

In the last 18 years, I’ve had at least 17 surgeries,  two of them life-saving!

I’m having a day where I feel DONE.
My body is quitting, and my soul just applied for early retirement. 
I just “don’t wanna” anymore!
It feels too hard today,

Too much work to smile today.

But, you know what?

I accidentally DID smile Today!
I accidentally felt some jolts of joy! 

I say “accidentally “, because I  was being miserable on purpose.

I WANTED to give up.

But GOD was already at work in me, before my feet hit the floor this morning. 
He had some plans to refresh my body and restore my soul.

They happened through bits of songs I heard as I went about my day,
In people who I bumped into,

In places only God could touch.
This is some of the glorious stuff God does!

He brushes the hair out of our eyes with some perfect, “don’t-blink-because-you’ll-miss-it” moments, that are full of the promise of Heaven, and all of the golden days in the sun….

WITH  the Son.

EVERY TIME I’ve had the notion to just give up in one way or another, He ALWAYS brings me back!

He is the very BEST  friend!!!!

I’m so glad He showed me again.

Body and Soul