How I Overcame Fear

little-boy-1635065_1920I’m not usually a fearful person. I can harness those lurking shadows that threaten to quicken my heart rate and rob me of my joy. I can figuratively hold fear in my hands and evaluate it; deciphering what hidden truth is being masked as something altogether different.

I’ve learned to question my fear in an attempt to whittle it down to its truthful root. Once I know its root, I can acknowledge it, face it, and deal with it. It no longer holds power over me. I learned this tactic years and years ago and it has freed me from worry, anxiousness, and fear–most of the time! Continue reading

There’s a Demon Named “Drama”

fantasy-2935093_1920“There’s a demon named ‘Drama,’” I heard my friend say over coffee this week. She quickly paused and then said, “you know, if you believe in those things.” I assured her that I do and had had more than a tussle or two with Drama over the years.
For me, my Drama is more internal than external. My mind creates scenarios based on half-truths and dwells on the what-ifs. My heart rate gets worked up and before long, I have lost my joy; I have lost my vision because all I can focus on is what is playing in my mind. It’s debilitating. It’s life-sucking. I’ve lost weeks of my life over the years due to Drama. Therefore, she has accomplished what she set out to do.

She not only sets out to steal our joy, derail our focus, and keep us from living life to its fullest, but most importantly, she succeeds when we look outside Christ for our identity and help. It’s easy to beat ourselves up, to see our faults, our insecurities, weaknesses, failures, etc. This is where my Drama lives and stifles me, but for some I know it’s the opposite: the need to be right, the best, the most…. Drama’s spectrum runs from the humble to the proud. Regardless, of where we find ourselves, the method: comparison and results: feeling less than, are the same. Continue reading

You’re Not Enough

mirrorWhen I was a young girl, I was fascinated with the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. What eight year old girl doesn’t love a story about singing birds, Prince Charming, and the pursuit of love?

In reality, I was afraid of birds. I was pretty sure they were going to dive bomb me and peck at my hair! I have no idea where that fear came from, but I wanted to believe they could work together to tie a satin ribbon in my hair as they had done for Snow White, making me just as beautiful and desirable as she. I knew it was make-believe, of course, just as I knew there were no wicked witches, magic mirrors, or kisses that could bring princesses back to life. I knew that and yet in some ways I was just as ignorant as the wicked witch when she asked the magic mirror, “Mirror, mirror on the wall who’s the fairest one of all?” Continue reading

I Don’t Go to Church Anymore

hanging armorI forgot that Satan lives in the Church as much as Christ does. I forgot that he is comfortable and remains undetected as he intricately, methodically, and tirelessly attempts to weave the three D’s: dissention, distance, disgrace shrouded in truth in to the hearts of all its attenders. I’ve known this for a good number of years and yet, I still have the habit of wiping my feet and hanging up my suit of armor at the door.
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A Second Victimization

Us three girlsInside, my emotions were wickedly raging; an inferno of sorts– but not the kind that subsides with time, but rather the kind that silently swelters and smolders bitter anger for a long time—for a long, loooong time before it unleashes its fury. But my daughters didn’t see that. Instead, what stared back at them were eyes unable to blink; they were frozen—matching the paralytic state of my body. But my mind; my mind was restless, bouncing from right hemisphere to left and back again. Each of their words were plunked out like a single long note on the piano—played in minor, but resounding in forte.

One. Word. At. A. Time– they slowly unraveled the carefully wrapped evil they had tucked away as a way to protect themselves from further pain. But evil gets heavier with time, not lighter and they began to crumble. I wish I could say that I saw it, that there were some clues as to what had happened in their lives, but there weren’t. Their words ambushed me, just as their attackers had ambushed them. Continue reading

A Distorted Image

Distorted imagery
Moments before she had been a chatter bug, talking about this and that, about dreams and aspirations as well as evaluating how far she had come from her lowest days not so long ago, where death seemed the only alternative to the demons gnashing their razor-sharp teeth at her every turn. The world had not been kind to her and her thoughts attacked her– violated her without pause. Her downward spiral was years of furious plummets, jolting halts, and unexpected drops—kind of like the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World–always downward, always without warning. Continue reading

The Prodigal Dissed

outcastI’ve been thinking a lot about mercy lately and how desperately I need it; how much I’ve come to rely on it. I know that when I humbly approach the Mercy Seat and allow my wretchedness to be exposed before the Creator of Heaven and Earth, I am welcomed, accepted, and loved with a love that is infinite, patient, and indulgent. It is a love that exists for us who may not have been disposed to receive it, those of us who continually struggle to be accepted in family, in the job place—in the world in general; those of us who cannot seem to “catch a break” and battle addiction in one form or another, those of us who wrestle with demons of every kind and cannot, even when presented with a way out, cannot or will not accept it because we believe we are un-savable; that our sins are too great; that we deserve the hell we live in.

The mercy I’ve not only come to know, but to adore with every fiber of my being is one where “words are important, but the gesture is explicit.”

The God of Mercy keeps showing up, keeps listening, keeps fighting for me. He meets me where I am. He speaks to me in a language that I understand. He doesn’t give up on me. Times when I have been unfaithful to Him, He has remained faithful to me. Times when it would be fitting to chastise me, condemn me, punish me; He, instead shows me grace and mercy—forgiveness.

At some point in my life, I came to believe God was a God of love and mercy, one of grace and forgiveness, but I never felt worthy of Him and struggled to accept the very things I craved and needed most in my life. The church I grew up in was one characterized as a “Fire and Brimstone” Baptist church. Judgement. Wrath. Hell. Punishment. I heard these words pounded out week after week in hopes that my guilt and shame would lead me to the Cross. Instead, it scared me. It actually scared me into salvation. And… it paralyzed me from approaching the Mercy Seat because I thought that if God really knew me, He would change His mind and pull a lever that opened a trap door in heaven’s floor sending me straight to hell.

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Two stories keep coming to mind and although the place, time, and characters differ, I keeping melding them together in my mind. The story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15) and the story of Jesus Forgives an Adulterous Woman (John 8).

The story of the Prodigal Son is perhaps one of the most revered stories in all the Bible probably because we can related to one or both of the brothers in the story. You may remember that the younger brother asks his father for his inheritance so he can leave his responsibilities and pursue a life of fast and wild living . His crass insensitivity indicated that his father was worth more to him dead than alive. And though this must have grieved the father, he complied and gave his son his share of the inheritance. The son leaves, goes off to a far off place and lives an intoxicating life of sin while the older brother remains, toiling the land; fulfilling his responsibilities and his father’s every wish.

At this point of the story, we may find favor with the older brother, have sympathy for the father, and believe that whatever comes upon the younger brother, he probably deserves. We’re prone to the “eye for and eye” mentality.

But when the younger son, poor, broken, and humbled, crests the hill back to his father’s home to ask to become one of his servants, the father sees him and RUNS to him.

I have to pause here for a brief second to point out that the father sees the son when he is a long way off. The Father, after all these years, was still watching for His son’s return. He remained faithful. He didn’t give up hope.

The son tries to apologize and plead for a job as a servant, but the father won’t hear of it. Instead he sends for his best robe, calls for the fattened calf, and throws a celebration fit for a king. His son was home.

This father didn’t allow the son’s past to interfere with the present. This father did not reject his wayward son. This father celebrated his return and loved him just as he had loved him before. I am certain there were conversations, consequences even, but even in that, there was merciful acceptance.

(I’d love to write from the perspective of the older son, who struggled with forgiving his younger brother and developed a heart of bitterness toward his father, but this post is long already and I have many more words to say.)

We find comfort in this story because we have all be the wayward son in one regard or another and the picture of us returning to family loved—loved as we need, but don’t expect or necessarily deserve is nothing short of gracious mercy. We may not call it grace; we may not even call it mercy; but that is what we crave. Some of us have been fortunate enough to have received such grace from friends and family, while others have returned humbled and forever scared only to be rejected again.

That is not the heart of Christ.

And if it is not apparent yet, I will clearly state that mercy is the central theme of the gospel and we, as Christ-followers, play a vital, critical role in administering this saving medicine for the soul.

The other story that comes to mind is the one of the adulterous woman; the story where the Scribes and Pharisees had brought a woman caught in adulty (and had a reputation for such) before Jesus and asked him what they should do. They were tricksters, those Pharisees, because they knew the law of Moses like the back of their hand, which stated that anyone caught in adulty was to be stoned to death. They were hoping to catch Jesus breaking the law, but instead Jesus calmly said, “Whomever is without sin may cast the first stone.” One by one, the men left and when all had left, Jesus turned to the woman and asked, “Is there no one to condemn you?” she replied, “No, my Lord.” He then looked softly into her dark eyes and whispered, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.”

Did this woman sin? Yes. Did this woman deserve to be stoned to death? According to the law, yes. Although the Bible doesn’t disclose how the woman was caught in the act, we can assume that because of her reputation, these Pharisees had been watching and waiting for her to slip up, to sin again. Some people in our lives do the same thing; they wait to pounce, to condemn, to say, “I knew you’d mess up.”
But on the other hand, we have been in a similar position as this woman, as the prodigal son, where we know we deserve condemnation, punishment and hope against hope for mercy.

What if the father had rejected the son? What if Jesus had encouraged the Pharisees to stone the adulterous woman? What if God withheld His mercy? The prodigal dissed… I weep, literally weep when I consider what I would lose—a love so great, a mercy so rich, a saving grace. It’s my everything. It’s my all.

Christ hears our heart’s plea for mercy and though our words may be choked by our tears and may fail to come to life as we approach his Mercy Seat, He tells us that a repentant heart (an explicit gesture) is all that is required. As Christ-followers let’s not ask more of others than Christ asks of us.

Love Stops Short

I love to love. The feeling I get when that deep seated emotion rises to the surface of my being and encapsulates me in its powerful, unharnessed wave, pulling me in and pushing me out. It lingers, saturating the shoreline for a brief moment before it is sucked back in and its strength renewed. Love is powerful. It has a source. It has boundaries, and it can be extinguished. Without a doubt, love is a complicated thing.
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Wasted No More

IMG_3712The truth is the majority of people are wasting their lives. Admittedly, I’ve wasted a good portion of mine. Because of pride; and some out of ignorance. Some spend their entire lives seeking fulfillment or happiness and though they find it in an array of areas, it is fleeting. Always. And when joy fades, the search begins all over again, but this time with a chink in our armor that reminds us that we failed somehow, somewhere. Sometimes this takes a toll on our identity because we no longer know exactly where we fit or what we need (or should) be doing; we just know it’s something beyond us.

We desire to be a part of a bigger, grander plan. It’s not that we think we have to do big things, but we want to be a part of something. We want to belong. We want to know our lives account for something beyond our expiration date.

Today marks the sixth year since my Daddy entered Heaven’s gates, the sixth year since he ran into the loving, outstretched arms of his Heavenly Father, the sixth year since he last felt pain, cried, worried, planned, dreamt…. It’s been six years—and not a single day has passed that I do not see his crooked smile in my mind’s eye or hear his voice encouraging me to keep going, to keep perspective when life feels so chaotic, uncertain, or overwhelming. Sometimes I still think I smell his aftershave or feel his rough and calloused hand in mine. I think it’s because I want to more than me losing my mind. I’m easily swept up in the memories of him and have lost moments of time to grief and tears—sometimes unexpectedly. I miss him Every. Single. Day. And every single day I think about both what his life and his death has taught me.

My dad died a young man; he was only 61! He did not get to see many of his “fifth quarter” hopes, dreams, and plans come to fruition. And boy, did he have a great retirement planned—He talked about it for years; literally years. He financially planned, ravenously read about various places and things he hoped to go and do…. To say, “he was giddy with anticipation” is a gross understatement because I’m pretty sure I caught him drooling a time or two when he’d share his next great idea! And although he was filled with so much joy in his dreaming and scheming, he was also counting down the days until its reality. I can still see the way his pale blue eyes danced as he dreamt out loud to anyone willing to listen.

calf-362170_960_720My Dad was a man who lived humbly. He was a dairy farmer for more than half of his life, then a custodian. He didn’t care about worldly possessions, but the ones he had he counted as blessings…gifts from the Lord and would have readily given them up to help someone in need. To the world looking in, he would appear to be a regular Joe, a man who perhaps didn’t achieve as the world pressures. He did not chase after the mighty dollar; he did not seek after prestigious positions, or dress to impress. He was meek, dedicated to his work, devoted to his family and friends and eagerly looked forward to helping others. He longed for little and gave everything. He was humble. He was sacrificial. He was fulfilled. He did not live to the world’s standards and it didn’t bother him for he did not strive to look like the world.

Over the course of his last few years, it was not uncommon for him to crave communion with Christ. He longed to be in His physical presence and would weep as he tried to envision the glory that he would soon encounter. My dad knew he’d run to Jesus if he ever had the chance. He got his chance– and I know he is on his knees singing his heart out to His Lord and Savior.

At his memorial service, where over 450 people attended, I heard countless stories of how my Dad touched their lives in remarkable ways…mostly through his attitude and his servanthood. As someone who knew his heart well, I can say I believe he had the right idea about life for he was a man fulfilled, longing to bring glory to Jesus in everything he did. He did not waste a single day…not one! If my Dad were to read these words, he would shake his head and with tears in his eyes say, “No Beloved, I have barely scratched the surface of living a life worthy of the calling”. “The calling” that he would refer to is a life basked in the hope of Jesus.

As I have spent much time reflecting these past six years since my Dad passed away, I have been repeatedly reminded that life is not about mastering or attaining many things, like the world reflects; it is about being mastered by one great thing! My Dad’s life counted for something eternally…I want to be consumed by that same fire! I don’t want to leave anything left unsaid, anything left undone. I want to use ALL of this life I’ve been given to give God complete glory and honor. Nothing else matters. Literally. #wastednomore

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” Matthew 22:37

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Fishing For Peace

fishing-909554_960_720My Dad loved to fish. No, I mean, He really looooved to fish. It was more than a hobby for him, it was his time of respite, his time of drawing near to the Lord. He needed this time as much as he desired it. He made time for it, even if it meant heading to his favorite fishing hole while dark claimed the atmosphere for a couple more hours. The tranquility beckoned him and throughout my entire childhood and even into my early adulthood, I witnessed his response to such peace while standing hip deep in his patched up waders in the glimmering swift waters: pole in one hand, the other lifted heavenward. I witness his face flush with gratitude and his eyes glisten when words failed him. I witnessed his heart outside his chest and learned of a love basked in utter peace amidst raging waters. I did not realize the gift this was until many years later.

Each weekend, my dad towed us kids along on his fishing expeditions–probably so he could keep an eye on us more than actually teach us any real skill. I won’t pretend we liked it. He fished year round, winter (Steelhead season) seemed to be his favorite–and my worst!  As a young girl, getting out of bed when it was still dark, dressing in layer upon layer to go sit in wet, smelly sand for hours at a time, while Dad fished felt a little like a punishment. However, my younger brother, sister, and I always managed to find mischief along the sandbar or create massive sand murals with pieces of driftwood–and inevitably, each excursion to Gold Bar or the Stilly River ended with all four of us, dad included, swinging our legs off the tailgate of Dad’s ‘66 baby blue Ford, while eating warm bologna sandwiches (how we didn’t end up with food poisioning is nothing short of God’s grace!). Smiles and giggles filled the truck as we drove back to the farm. And as wonderful as these Saturdays turned out to be, I still resolved that nothing could be more boring than to sit and watch a pole for hours on end in hopes to get a “nibble”. I believed that until I was 26 years old. (Therefore this is an old story!)ebay346645

Though I had not gone fishing with my dad for many years, I had decided that when I traveled home with my then 9 month old daughter, Meg, I would go with him. I don’t know why I thought it would be any different or why I was now subjecting my baby to this seemingly torrid event, but something drew me.

I suppose I wanted what my dad had found there all those years, whatever it was.

Sipping strong coffee from the lid of Dad’s green dented thermos, I sat with Meg on the slight incline of the sandbar, watching my dad. I loved everything about him in that moment, especially his crooked smile or the way he would bite his lower lip while putting fresh bait on his hook. He waded out into the river a little further and cast his line again. I watched how the river glided swiftly past him, over fallen trees, and boulders; continuing downstream, narrowing in places, skimming the sandy bar, and eventually spilling into another body of water. I loved watching his line plunk into the river, creating a series of expanding rings, until they disappeared. I was enthralled by the interlacings of regal simplicity and splendid authority.

I had sat on the banks of this river more times than I could count, but not until this day did I pay any attention to its fluid movement and how it formed itself to the shape of whatever object stood in its path. The river was never without motion. I had seen it bursting with energy as its upstream source aggressively pushed its mass into this stream. I had seen it flooded as well as low enough to count the speckled rocks littering its floor. I have seen it nearly still, just ripples carelessly riding on its surface. Still, always in motion.

stream-341772_960_720I turned my face to the early morning sun, letting its warmth seep into my soul. The thought-provoking words of Horatio G. Spafford (1873) came to mind in that moment, a precious hymn I sang as child, growing up in a small Baptist church: “When peace like a river attendeth my way…” I hummed the song repeatedly as the melody soothed my wounded soul and the words caused me to contemplate what peace really means. “Peace like a river”, I whispered to myself as I sought out the characteristics of the river only 15 feet before me.

“Peace like a river”. The book of Isaiah uses this analogy twice, though the Bible addresses the topic of peace 251 times. It is the thing that we seek, bend over backward to meet. However, peace is not only as Webster’s defines: “A state of tranquility or quiet”, but experiencing this while meeting many bumps and unexpected twists and turns on life’s journey. Peace is not something that we can attain on our own merit, despite our best effort.

If you are like me, you may have attempted to eliminate activities or remove yourself from certain draining situations in hopes of finding peace. For many of us, we reason that we’re too busy to really have peace in our lives and that perhaps once we make it through this season, then…we can have peace–that restfulness that we seek. However, we are not meant to live life in the stillness of a…a pond! Think about that. How would we demonstrate our character, our faith, our reliance on Christ if we lived within the safety of ripple-less waters? Peace can be found within the raging waters of life if we continue to go back to the Source of peace, the Prince of Peace

Christ is the upstream tributary, or source, that feeds into the river. Rivers are constantly being renewed by active, ongoing motion. It is not filled once and left to fend for itself. Christ encourages we who are thirsty, we who are in need, to come to the fountain (Is. 55:1) Here, He fills us with His life-giving water.

This filling enables us, like the river, to spill out into another body of water, overflowing into the lives of those around us.

Sitting on the wet sand banks, holding my sweet Meg in my arms, kissing her plump cheeks and inhaling her sweet baby fragrance, I understand the analogy of “peace like a river”for the first time ever–and in that moment, I released my preconceived notions that life should be easier, without so much pain, and heartache and embraced the fact that my seasons of adversity have actually led me into the arms of the Prince of Peace.

Undoubtedly, storms of adversity will wash over us, attempting to steal our attention from the One who gives us peace. Beloved, don’t let them. Keep going back to the source.

Christ desperately grieves for us when our hearts and souls are in unnecessary turmoil (Luke 19:41-42).
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I can’t help but to think of the parable about the disciples out at sea when a terrible storm began to rage; violently tossing their boat about the outrageous waves, completely and unequivocally terrifying them. I imagine as they saw Jesus walking among the perilous waves toward them, they believed He would save them by calming the storm. They knew He could; they’d seen Him perform miracles before. However, their thoughts were  interrupted as Jesus called out to them, “Take Courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”. It is here that you would expect Jesus to calm the storm. He did not. Not until after he climbed into the boat.

I believe we can identify with the disciples here: believing that peace is equated with rescuing—from calming the storms of life. “The point is not that we don’t have anything to fear, but that [Christ’s] presence is the basis for our courage” (Beth Moore). His peace is the fruit of His spirit at work in our lives.

With the “winds still raging, He said, ‘Take Courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid’”. We can have peace when we authentically surrender to the trustworthy, sovereign authority of Jesus and keep going back to the “well”, while chaotic uncertainties and exhausting stressors surround us. (Sigh! Can you possible grasp this?)

I set Meg down in the sand and encouraged her to play, when I discovered a brutally weathered and beaten oyster shell. It revealed a life of being carelessly tossed about in the continual motion of the waters. I flipped it over, rubbing my thumb along its smooth, iridescent inner shell, thinking that perhaps an irritation the size of a grain of sand had made its way into its life, forming a pearl, a treasure of great value.

jewelry-420018_960_720I had been wounded to my very core 18 months earlier when I had been raped, conceiving a child, my Meg, as a result. To say my heart had been hemorrhaging all those months as I attempted to understand where God was in all of this, is a gross understatement. I went from blaming Him for the situation– because He allowed it to happen, angrily accusing Him of not loving me; to a place where I fully embraced Genesis 50:20, “What Satan intended for evil, God intended for good”. In this moment, holding Meg, my precious pearl– a seeming reminder of incredible pain–she was/is infinitely more of reminder of the peace that God grants us when we surrender to His authority.

My chin quivered and my nose began to run as I contemplated this beautiful, tangible lesson I believe God orchestrated specifically for me this day; this day that I had gone fishing for peace with my Dad.

I bit my quivering lip, trying to compose my emotions as I ran out to my Dad. With Meg in tow in one arm, and the oyster shell in the other, I called out “Hey Dad, look what I just found”! We paused for a warm bologna sandwich, while sitting in the warm cab of his truck, and through heavy, gut wrenching sobs, I shared with him what I believe the Lord had taught me there on the banks of the Stilly River.

Meg’s name means “pearl”. She was named Meg for that meaning. She was brought into this life through a horrific situation, but without a doubt, she is my pearl of great value. So great in fact that a Merchant I know so very personally sold everything He had for her…and for you…and for me (Matthew 13:45).

woman-591576_960_720Our identity is not in the bumps and bruises that we accrue; rather our identity is the One who freely gives us peace in the trials of life. He sees you as His pearl, nothing less!

The oyster shell, 16 years later, still sits on Meg’s dresser and serves as reminder that pearls weather storms of life and peace can and will accompany us when we surrender to our sovereign Lord’s authority.

I went fishing with my dad that day and caught a whole lot of peace!