Archive: July, 2011

Trusting Him

“Mom, why didn’t you tell me I was going to get shots today?” – The question surprised me as the words tumbled out of my teary-eyed 5 year-old. She sat staring down at the two Scooby Doo Band-Aids pressed across both of her red and swollen thighs.
Just moments earlier she climbed into the safety of my lap as I wrapped both of her arms tightly in my own while the nurse injected her with four immunizations.
I thoughtfully considered her question. There were two reasons why I didn’t tell her that she’d get shots today at her annual appointment.
1.) I didn’t want her to fret and worry all day long about what was ahead. I just didn’t see the point of putting her through all of that.
And…
2.) I didn’t want to deal with her fretting and worrying… and whining all day long that she didn’t want to go… I didn’t see the point of putting me through all of that!
I hugged her intently, kissed her head, said I’m sorry and dove into reason #1. Then I suggested McDonalds and all was right in her world again.
As I drove away the thought of God’s plan for my life crossed my mind. I have no idea where I’m headed. What danger or suffering lies ahead for me? Fear of the unknown made a stealthy play for my heart… our financial stability… our health… my children’s future.
The list goes on until… I hear my own words echo back at me… “My child, I don’t want you to fret or worry about any of that… If I told you more than you need to know then your worry would just increase.”
And His familiar Word settled on my heart…
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds 
are steadfast, because they trust in you.” 
Isaiah 26:3
Just like I need my children to trust me to lead them – even when it hurts, so also the Lord requires that I do the same thing with Him. In fact, the path I take them on is completely dependent on my trust in Him. And the way I trust Him will greatly impact the way they do.
I want to get it right.

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#67 Your Saving Grace

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I came to Christ in my late twenties. And I may have told you that before that I was far, far, far… I mean really far from believing in God. 
I was one of those people that thought Christians were crazy for putting all of their faith into something so unsubstantial. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would give credit to this “thought”  for what their hard work had produced. 
I was among those “headed for destruction” as 1 Corinthians 1:18-19 explains and the bible was indeed foolishness to me.
BUT, despite me… God had another plan.
At a very early age I began “looking for love in all the wrong places” — as the old song goes. And after a jagged path of broken hearts I surely felt broken… unwanted and completely unworthy of love. 
At this time I decided there must be something bigger… and it had to be spiritual, but… don’t get excited… not the kind of “spiritual” you’re thinking. I began to discover my spiritual self in books like the Celestine Prophecy. I studied a little astrology and identified with my sign and colors and whatever else looked good to me.
When I look back on it all I now see that God used that ache within me to be loved to draw me into Him. First He brought me earthly love in my husband, which still did not fulfill my need, in fact it made it worse because all my expectations about true love were thrashed inside the first year of marriage. Which put me right where He wanted me… right where He could reach me.
I wasn’t looking for Him… it was Him that found me. And I will never be the same. There is nothing about my life that hasn’t changed and there is still so very much to do… and I’m so grateful for that Grace that finds me still.
Here in Florida I haven’t found K-LOVE, but there is another station that I’ve enjoyed… sermons by Charles Stanley (awesome) songs I’d never heard before… like this one by Rush of Fools that put me smack in the middle of the memory of  His saving Grace in my life…
Have you heard it?
Taking it a little deeper I’m meditating on Colossians 1:13-14 and I’ve personalized it for myself… feel free to do the same for your heart…
“For He has rescued me from the kingdom of darkness 
and transferred me into the Kingdom of His dear Son, 
who purchased my freedom and forgave my sins.”
Rejoicing today over His Amazing Grace!
Continuing the count with A Holy Experience

68.) catching catfish in the back yard
69.) frying up that catfish and eating it for dinner
70.) Bryers waffle cone ice cream
71.) partly sunny with a chance of rain
72.) the “check tire” warning signal on the rental van
73.) Jason’s Deli
74.) baby sting rays swimming in the shore at high tide
75.) how they make friends so easily
76.) when mr. man says “I’m sorry” from his heart to little miss — without a word from me
77.) tanned skin
78.) cute little white bottoms from tanned skin
79.) living simply
80.) days without makeup
81.) humidity and what it does for my hair
82.) husbands devotion to me
83.) husbands love for the Lord
84.) husbands endurance, strength and perseverance — it’s all YOU
85.) sunset peaking through the palm trees
86.) glassy waters
87.) the Food Network TV
88.) the way You reveal yourself to me
89.) unearthing issues that need your attention
90.) playing “I love you more than ______” with little miss
91.) the way big sister pretends she doesn’t feel well in order to sleep with me when daddy’s out of town

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Part Two of the Train Story

A few of you sweet souls commented on Wednesday, “What happened? Did you find your husband?” I absolutely was not trying to leave y’all in a literary cliffhanger. No ma’am. What I can say, was in that moment my first reaction was to slap on a huge grimace, plop myself down, and roll around crying. I guess, sort of a 30 something year old mama-drama-tantrum.
Anyway, praise Jesus that is not what happened.
God birthed in me a new strength I never thought I had. I picked up my bags with determination. I had a new mission…to figure out what in tarnation I was going to do. I became swept away by all the other people piling into the Naples train station up ahead. I hurried up the escalator. I set my bags down at the top so I would have a birds-eye view of every track in that place. I tried to act as if I knew exactly what I was doing, but you guessed it, I didn’t have a clue.
Much to my surprise about 15 minutes later, when I was about to break into a real sweaty mess, my man hopped off another train. He had gone to the next stop. As soon as he had arrived, a second train came by, picked him up, and returned him to the Naples station where I was waiting.
In that moment, elation and fear collided. The juices in my stomach started to churn. I wanted to rip his head off for “him-hawing” on the train and leaving me alone.
But God…(don’t you just love those two connection words)?
But God said, “No sweetie, no. Don’t carry anger and fear. Just remember the lesson I taught you here today.” My take away lesson was this: fill all the creases and cracks of your mind with God’s Truth. Pack it so full of Truth that there is absolutely no room for fear.

When we realize that because God himself is near and we don’t have to been anxious about anything, we will tap into the power of God like never before.

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Have You Ever Been Fearful?

The train hums as it gently wraps itself around the corner of the Naples train station. My unhurried husband and I fling our backpacks over our shoulders and proceed to the nearest exit. I clink and clank my two wheel carry-on-bag through the exit door. I lay my bulky luggage and oversized polka dotted purse along the concrete’s edge. I quarter turn back towards the train. A crisp beeping sound blares from overhead signaling the doors are about to shut.
Suddenly, my stomach flips in fear.
The doors are shutting, only I’m on the outside and my husband is still on the train. Seconds pass before I’m able to shake flusters of shock off my face. Desperation suddenly jerks my limbs into action. My trembling fingers try to pry the doors apart.
It’s too late.

Nothing works.

He’s gone.

I’m left standing alone in an unfamiliar place while onlookers shake their heads in disbelief.
In this moment God’s presence stirs with a purpose. Without spoken words, a phrase bounces off the framework of my heart…

“Push past your fear because God is near.”

God is near. Not just at home. Not just during quiet times. Not just on mission trips…But always.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline,” (2 Timothy 1:7).

Even though God didn’t give us a spirit of fear, we all know what its sting feels like. So how do we become women who say “no” to fear and “yes” to God?
First, I think we must become women who exhibit God-confidence as opposed to self-confidence. God’s intention was never to make God girls “self-confident.” He created us to be confident in Him alone.
Secondly, we must become women who push beyond themselves so they can embrace what God has for them.
Women who don’t live their lives saturated in fear but soaked in Truth;

Women who rejoice in God’s intentional invasion of their comfort zones; and

Women who are able to shift focus away from fear and onto to God.
Oh, just think how different our lives would be if we didn’t let fear make us shy away from God’s plan. It breaks my heart thinking of all the times I blew it…all the opportunities I didn’t take. But just because I wasn’t a woman who said “yes” to God yesterday, doesn’t mean I can’t be a woman who says “yes” today.
That day on a sizzling train platform, I wiped the sweat from my eyes and decided to allow God’s Word to actually sink in. Instead of simply reciting the verse, I tried applying it for a change.
In that moment, I felt 2 Timothy 1:7 strengthen me in a new way. I tapped into God’s power and you know what happened? I became a woman with a Spirit of power, love, and self-discipline…Just the way God designed me to be.

Is fear holding you back today?

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Nothing

I hand my B37 boarding pass to the agent at the gate and hesitantly walk onto the already full airplane. Nearly every seat is taken. In the back are a few empty, dreaded middle seats and I quickly make a choice. Standing up, it seems like a n okay one, but as I settle in I am met with regret.


Almost instantly I am squished and touched uncomfortably with four hours looming ahead of me. Ms. aisle seat has no other choice but to move partially into my seat. Mr. window seat tries to respect what little space I have left allowing me to shift my legs when needed.

Two-hundred-forty minutes ahead and an intense grumbling erupts in my heart. My face is brow furrowed and visibly scrunched… I close my eyes and try to push past my present frustration. A simple, single prayer escapes my cluttered thoughts…  “God show me the blessings in this place. “

Nothing came.

I try to force it… thank you God for air travel… thank you for the 40 inches of window and the clouds passing by… thank you for the free diet soda…

But no peace comes to me. I am trapped, anxiety ridden and clinging to only an ounce of sanity and self-control. 


And then a glimpse of His purpose pushes its way to the forefront of my heart… my purpose in this. 


My mind abruptly centers on Ms. aisle seat sleeping soundly next to me and though she is slightly on me I am over-whelmed with a sense of her discomfort. How she must feel. Her frustration. And her anxiety. 

So, I pray for her


And I soon forget all about me. 


Burdened for her my face loosens as my heart softens and I breathe out peace.

My comfort level remains cramped, but my heart suddenly feels free. I am reminded of Paul, persecuted and in chains, yet content in all things… spreading the gospel… serving and loving others for His sake.

And me… what do I have to complain about? 

Nothing. 

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. ” 
1 Timothy 2:1


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Turning it Around

So, here we are on our extended vacation in Florida that I mentioned to you all. My husband is traveling over the East coast, so we decided to just call this home base for a little while.
First, I want you to know that it is absolutely wonderful! The home is everything we expected and more. In fact, the first night we arrived at midnight the first thing we did was quickly slip into our suits and promptly jump into the pool!
What a sweet memory for us all. 
Next, I’ll honestly tell you that there are some things that aren’t exactly what I expected. 
Like, the rain for example… I did not realize that summer is the rainy season for Florida especially South West Florida where we are staying. We’re under cloud cover more than we’re not and I can’t count how many times I’ve walked into a store dry and walked out into a complete down pour. 
And, though I knew we’d battle the bugs here I did not really know just how many buggies were calling this place home. We race from the front door to the van to avoid a mosquito attack and then slam the doors shut to keep them out of the van.
The good out ways the bad without a doubt, but I’m learning that even so the bad can create a tone and an attitude within my heart. It can easily seep in and change the way I see everything. And once it’s got a foot hold on me it is contagious and spreads to the rest of the family and we are infected. 
So much in our Christian life requires intentional work and dealing with disappointments is a big part of that. When a negative attitude invades our hearts and minds we must get into the habit of turning it around and fast. 
I have a little technique that is helping me. When things turn ugly I first dwell on God’s Sovereignty. I remember that not one thing is a surprise to Him. Every step I take. Every hurdle I cross. Every drop of rain. Every single bug. They are all within His reach and all a part of His creation. And I can let them burden me or I can find the blessing in them. 
It’s a choice.
The second thing I do is make the only choice that completely snuffs out the negative. I simply find the blessings in my situation. They are always there, for example… I actually love rain storms and we get very little rain in Reno, so I’m thanking Him for every drop. The kids and I are finding joy in racing from the store to the car in a compete down pour… it’s just water and it’ll dry. And the beach is just as much fun and a lot cooler under clouds… the ambiance is serene and peaceful and I absolutely love it.
Turning it around is a necessary habit in order to Live Fully right where you are. The complaints all around seem to disappear and His glory abounds more and more. 

“The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty rules over all.” Psalm 103:19 (NASB)
Living Fully in Florida and counting on…
31. freshly cleaned yard
32. precious prayers of a little sweetheart
33. how they play together
34. when little miss brushes my hair
35. sweet old men carrying real handkerchiefs
36. passing time with wonderful friends
37. the scale moving down
38. everytime husband comes home
39. making plans
40. rain falling all night
41. waking up to snuggling angels
42. daddy, who never wants to let them down
43. when mr. man reads to little miss
44. the way You cover my mistakes
45. the full moon
46. warmer weather
47. darling daughters place in your kingdom
48. obediently turning my upsets over to you and faithfully receiving your peace
49. my swimming superstars
50. thunderstorms and lightening shows 
51. screen covered pool with all the little buggies on the outside
52. super sweet mangos
53. juicy, delicious tomatoes
54. listening to little miss sing the Tangled soundtrack over, and over and over…
55. afternoon naps
56. fresh fish from the fish market
57. white sands
58. having husband (daddy) all to our selves
59. fireworks going off  right over our heads
60. our freedom in this country
61. better yet, our freedom in Christ
62. the ocean
63. giving up my fears and letting them snorkel with dad in the middle of the ocean
64. glass bottom boat rides for me and little miss
65. family fun nights in Florida 🙂
66. being able to turn it around because of You


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Catacombs “The Secret Church” ~ Exploration In Rome

Oh, I can’t wait to share with you today…

It is several feet below the Roman road of today. It’s nestled along the cobblestone road of the Appian Way and located just outside Rome. My anticipation bubbles over as we enter the Christian Catacombs of St. Sebastian.
It’s as if moments twinkling in time could be re-captured and re-experienced. As we embark down the winding stair-case which leads to the musty smelling tunnels, I brush my hands over cold memories carved in limestone from centuries past. Somehow, my imagination picks up where 4th century A.D. left off.

My excitement fizzes over as 10 of us walk in single file line through the candle lit tunnels. Did I mention there are hundreds and hundreds of passageways where Christians buried their dead along the red clay walls? They wrapped their dead, tucked them into carefully carved openings, and placed limestone slabs over them (to cover the smell).

There is something beautiful lying beneath the cracked surface. Something magnificent hidden in imperfections which beg the eye to look harder, deeper into history. Patterns of Jesus as the Good Shepherd scratched across  colored marble. Designs of the Ichthys etched in time. Greek symbols crying out for Jesus’ return. The distinctness of each hand carved portrait builds my faith as childhood Bible stories flood my mind and saturate my heart.



Painting of Daniel in the Lion Den



As we feel our way through dark tunnels and dusty floors, I imagine myself as one of the Christians escaping the Roman law of that time. Joining hands with fellow believers whose desire to flee the city of walls of persecution leads them to this place. It’s a place where God’s girls (and boys) can quench their thirst for worship without being noticed or discovered. It’s a thirst that can only be subdued until the next gathering.

These tunnels provide a portal to archaic moments which bridge the gap between the old and the new. Places once concealed from idol-worshipping law, now revealed under the light of today.
As we remerge from the basement-like tunnels below, it takes a moment for my eyes to adjust to the bright sprays of sunlight bursting behind the clouds. Discovering secret Christian meetings squeezed between pillars of persecution and tunnels of family members and friends buried centuries ago will never be forgotten.

Can you tell this was my favorite part of our trip!?


Have a great weekend!

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The Forum "Ancient Rome"

“The brothers and sisters in Rome had heard we were coming, and they came to meet us at the Forum on the Appian Way,” (Acts 28:15).
My three year old thinks our pastor’s two daughters are super-stars. When she sees them, she gasps and points with excitement. “Look mama, Hannah and Grace… “they urrr guuurgeous,” she’ll exclaim!
The Apostle Paul didn’t have super-star status like my pastor’s kids. He trotted down the streets of ancient Rome (called the Forum seen below) with chains twisted around his wrists and the Gospel wrapped around his heart. The Lord had given Paul a gospel-charged assignment. “That night the Lord appeared to Paul and said, “Be encouraged, Paul. Just as you have been a witness to me here in Jerusalem, you must preach the Good News in Rome as well,” (Acts 23:11, NLT).

As I began the journey into a massive archeological area called the Forum it hit me. Even in the midst of such immense adversity, Paul’s boldness for Christ never wavered. He arrived in Rome not as an apostle free to conduct ministry as usual, but as an apostle in chains whose voice would be muffled and activity would be limited.

As I stepped across gray cobblestones sprinkled with pieces of marble constructed centuries ago, Paul’s own words echoed through the hallway of my mind, “My life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the word assigned me by the Lord Jesus,” (Acts 20:24).
Words escaped me. His words of denial of self came alive in a new way. I found myself whispering in soft breaths the words, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…
After he arrived, Paul became entangled in the Roman judicial system. Roman citizens began forming their own opinions about Paul. Since rumor and gossip stirred the populace, and since there was nothing like objective reporting or newspapers to tell the other side, popular perception carried the day (59-61 A.D.). And if Christians were slandered, the majority of the people believed the gossip. Fellow believers were afraid to be associated with Paul and his ministry. They were ashamed of the Gospel because of Paul’s imprisonment.
In response, Paul wrote, “So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News,” (2 Timothy 1:8-18, NLT).

Personal Note: Like Paul I want to be so God-focused that I say, “Whatever it takes Lord, whatever it costs me, I want to be a woman who says, “yes,” to you.

Thanks for allowing me to share my thoughts with you…


I’ll share more photos tomorrow!


Statue of Apostle Paul



Nero’s House (Ruler who had Paul beheaded)



Paul would have lived in an “apartment” like this one (shops on botttom and homes on top)



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The Appian Way (“Via Appia”)~ When In Rome…

I was in Rome, Italy last week. The only Italian words I knew were the words for “girl parts” and “boy parts,” thanks to my sweet girlfriend, her Italian hubby, and their two children here in Reno. I must admit, those words did come in handy thanks to Michel Angelo’s fascination with the male anatomy. Any hoo hoo, all I can say is I’m glad most Italians know English because this Southern girl could only say, “Y’all know where the toilets are?” Because you see, there are no “restrooms” only “toilets.”
Bathrooms, restrooms, potty…it’s universal…Even though the “flusher” is on the wall and not on the toilet itself. I couldn’t quite get used to that!
Now, to the good part…
I love sitting down with my Bible, placing my finger on a specific passage, and then being able to go see it, touch it, and experience it. For example, in Acts 28:13-15, Scripture talks about how the Apostle Paul walked along the Appian Way as a prisoner led into Rome. How fellow believers met him at the Three Taverns (see Acts 28:15) so they could walk with him. I asked our driver about the Three Taverns as referenced in Acts. He looked at me like I had three heads. Although, after a little digging, we learned that the “Three Taverns” were located in someone’s residential garden. He shook his unbelieving head and said, “I don’t think they will allow you to perform an amateur excavation in their backyard.” But of course he said it with a really cool accent.

As we drove along the bumpy cobblestone road of the Appian Way, I asked the driver to stop. I wanted my feet to walk the same road, smell the same air, and experience a specific moment in time. Trees overhead seemed to tangle themselves in a moving canopy that shaded the smoldering pavement. A road carved in ancient truths from the second century A.D.

Who would have ever thought that a Jesus loving stay-at-home mamma would be tripping over her shoelaces on such an important walk through Biblical history…a woman forever changed because of what she saw.
The more my eyes gazed over roads paved with centuries of secrets, the more enamored I became. The more I walked down the same cobblestone road as Paul (he in his sandals and I in my Nikes), the more the things of this earth faded away. This road was a spiritual marker for Paul. A marker which led to his ultimate fulfillment of God’s assignment…taking the Gospel to the Gentiles (me and you) ….and to the ends of the earth.

I hope you don’t mind if I share more this week.

To be continued…
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Growing Not Perfecting

As I sit outside, I notice a weed invasion marching across the backyard. Shrubs and trees relax their roots as they recline across the deck’s chipped exterior. Branch-like arms stretch wildly over the white picket fence. All shapes, sizes, and colors… taking on the appearance of uneven chaos.
My eyebrows scrunch as I think, “The shrubs need to be cut back. They are so overgrown.” Their imperfections are desperately crying out for some good pruning shears to snap them back into shape.
I am struck at how quickly they’ve grown. When my husband and I planted years ago, we hoped for growth but never expected perfection. We didn’t get perfection either… and that’s okay.
Now as I gaze over the untidy plant-like mess in the yard, I am reminded of God’s love for us.
He loves even when our limbs need to be yanked back into action.
He loves even when we’re a little droopy and bent out of shape.
He loves even the most unruly messes.
God doesn’t want us wasting time striving for perfection, because he knows disappointment will forever be on the horizon. For God so loved us, despite our imperfection and our hopeless state of sin ~ that he sent his Son ~to live a life he knew we could never live.
The Message paraphrases 1 Corinthians 3:7 in this way:
“It’s not the one who plants or the one who waters who is at the center of this process but God, who makes things grow. Planting and watering are menial servant jobs at minimum wages. What makes them worth doing is the God we are serving. You happen to be God’s field in which we are working.”
Just like the overgrown shrubs in the backyard, God doesn’t require a perfectly pruned exterior to make his creation look good. There is no room in His will for our faint-less efforts to be perfect in an imperfect world.
Why?
Jesus already took care of that.
That’s the beauty of the Gospel.
The goal has never been about perfection.

It’s about…our growth.

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