How to Love the Offender But Hate the Offense

What about another person’s sin?

My mind has struggled to grasp how to forgive another while being entirely at odds with what he or she did. And I hear people say, forgiveness doesn’t mean you need to be OK with what happened; forgiveness means you release what happened, and move on.

Forgiveness means we can be entirely not ok with what occurred. We can forgive another without being in relationship with another. We can forgive someone without approving of someone’s actions. We can be entirely upset by the sin, but have a heart of love for the sinner.

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Loving someone doesn’t always mean you’re in relationship with someone. I’ve seen some of the best women need to walk away from relationships because they were destructive in the worst kind of way.

Well-meaning Christians [or the wrong-doer him/herself] imply that if you’d only forgive, everything would be fine. People forget that forgiveness for the offended can happen without the offender changing at all, and if forgiveness means we put ourselves in harm’s way again, we may have a wrong understanding of it for our particular situation.

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Forgiveness is wise.
Forgiveness is safe.
Forgiveness is freeing.

The freedom of forgiveness means you walk in life. If your version of it takes you right back to death, perhaps Christ would want to give you His version instead?

Forgiveness doesn’t imply hiding abuse. Like the one mother who had hidden for her abuser since childhood and was now struggling to know whether her version of forgiveness was the right one, I encouraged her that true love brings things to light so that he has a greater chance of forgiveness before his death.

In the name of forgiveness, she was allowing a child offender to go free—and who knows how many other children were abused because of her willingness to “forgive.”

When we hide for another, we make the sin of another more possible.

Does your version of forgiveness bring you freedom or keep you in fear?

Jesus died for the sin of the entire human race. He forgave, but He still hated the sin so much that He died publicly for it. Sin demands an answer.

Galatians 6: 1-2 says, “If anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness.”

See this—God never asks us to ignore the sin; He asks us to restore the sinner.

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We can be entirely hard on the sin without being unloving toward the sinner. You can be merciless toward the act itself while showing mercy toward the one who committed the act. In this way, sin is dealt with while the soul is loved on. Was not that what Christ did?

Realize that the sin toward yourself is a symptom of great need in another. Rather than react toward the person who failed you, look into his/her life and try to understand the why behind it. Learn to pull out roots more than chop off plants.

When roots are pulled out, the plants don’t grow again. But chopping off the plant while leaving the root cause only ensures the same old plant will sprout back. Many times, those who fail us need us to stick in there and walk back to life with them.

There’s another side as well. Remember Jesus, when He entered the temple and threw the money tables over while demanding everyone get out? This wasn’t so gentle. There are sins that demand firm aggression and an absolute denial of access into our lives.

The Gentle One became strong.
The Meek One became as bold as a lion.
The Loving One refused to tolerate.
And the One Who knows all things didn’t cover for them.

He is the epitome of Love. Look to Him for an example of how to show love, and how to forgive. Realize that even the Son of God didn’t allow sin to pass by unchecked, and for people to benefit from His offer of reconciliation, they must also accept His offer to help them change.

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Forgive another, and walk with them to healing—but know that, when you need to, you can also forgive and never walk with them again. For one sinner, Jesus walked, talked, and graciously continued relationship; for another, He overthrew tables and demanded them to leave.

Neither one had Him locked in bitterness. The Son of Man walks free regardless of what happens around Him, and so can you. Simply know His heart for each person and each situation, and He will show you what you need to do.

Simply know this—in either case, you are free.

When Moms Want to be Lit up More Than Burnt Out

I stare at the wall hanging in one of my favorite stores, then carefully place it into my shopping cart.

It was perfect. The words, the font, the message. And I purchased it without guilt because somehow I knew our home “needed” it.

I had just finished cleaning the best gun shop in town, and enjoyed chatting with the bright eyed little boy who occupied one of the back rooms while his daddy put in a few hours of work.

He walked on my wet floor and chattered incessantly when all I wanted was quiet. But he taught me a lesson.

I had left my own little boy at home with his daddy while I did my weekly job away from the house. It was hard to leave. Somehow, I always feel I’m not good enough of a mama when I pull out of that driveway.

Feeling like I’m not enough is a constant challenge for many of us mothers. But here was a little tyke with eyes so bright and happy they nearly blazed with confidence, and he was, get this, occupying himself in the back room of a gun shop.

And here I was, feeling badly that my own little boy was running around a large house and property with his dad and three siblings. Perhaps the boy alone in the room was happier than my own boy in the house—because love isn’t felt with things as much as it’s felt with rest and freedom in the atmosphere—and it may or may not be happening in either place.

 

I wanted to meet his mother. I did get to observe his father, and there was this relaxed, all is well with our world type of demeanor. He had the bright face, too.

Mothers, our kids do better with our sometimes-absent bright face than they do with our constantly present, stressed out countenance.

I’m thinking knee-deep into this dilemma of wanting to fill every single gap I think I need to fill—and then find myself snappy and exhausted as a result. This summer, I’ve been taking a step back.

It’s hard. I’m wondering if my friends are offended because I haven’t had them over as much as I’d like to.

I’m wondering if my husband’s thinking I’m slacking on taking care of his needs.

I’m wondering if I’m enough, enough, enough—and I’m choosing to let go, anyway.

I fill that gigantic glass jug [the one I found at a yard sale for two dollars] with granola so the kids can eat breakfast before school, and I’m hidden away in my office with my Bible, laptop, and coffee. The next week, I purchase cups of instant cereal at the outlet store for a treat. My kids thought I’d finally joined the “fun mom” crowd until they read the ingredients—get this, the first ingredients were beans and lentils, and the fruity cereal was colored with paprika and beet juice.

I let go of two weekly commitments so I could add in two others for the benefit of our family.

I quit pinching every penny, and I purchase a few lovely things for our home along with teaching DVD’s to create a more restful school atmosphere.

Because the mind that never quits will soon have a brain that doesn’t know how to shut down. And when you’re pushed so hard for all things good you soon can’t be anything good.

I speak it to my husband, this thing of trying so hard to create a perfect life for my kids that I end up creating a stressful atmosphere. Because the body that never stops will soon have a brain that doesn’t want itself or anyone else to stop, either.

We were born to be, not born to perform.

Be kind.

Be loving.

Be full of smiles.

Be rested.

Be connected to the people who matter.

Somehow we’re conditioned to think that the busier we are, the more productive we are. Did you know we can spin crazily for a lifetime without producing the product of a moment?

Life is not so much about what we say or do or what model of parenting we choose as it is about what kind of presence we host. The peaceful presence of God determines what we say and do; therefore, taking time to know and commune with God is the most important gift we can give to our kids and spouses.

Cut your corners but don’t cut your time. If you’re willing to cut corners you will soon notice that you enjoy your extra time much more than you need the satisfaction of accomplishing everything.

And if you wonder if you’re a good enough wife, mother, or friend, remember that you are a human being more than you are a human doer.

I’m noticing an extra smile twinge the corners of my mouth these days. An extra moment to give. Extra energy to put out. I’d rather have extra energy to put out than have no energy because I’m constantly stressed out.

God is a Being, and you are made in His likeness. Because God is the Being He is, He does the things He does. He doesn’t do the things He does so He can be the Being He is. In the same way, you can’t afford to push too hard to do many things so you can be something.

You do the best thing because you already are something—and you don’t need to prove what already is.

When you allow His Being to enter your own, you will be love, peace, and kindness.

I pick up that wall hanging. I drink that coffee, alone. I have that quiet time. I create space just to be, simply to enjoy, breathe, and smile.

I’m done rushing about trying to do everything I think those around me need me to do—because I’ve seen that doing so much good takes me from being all things good.

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There is never too much to do—there is only an inward push to be too much because we think we’re not enough. Mothers get this—that push is a lie, and if you need to, drop that paring knife and go purchase onions that are already chopped.

In a burning world, we don’t need to be burnt out. We need to be lit right up, because we were made to be long before we were stressed with too much to do.

When Bitter Means Better

I’m standing outside a small meeting place in Seattle, chowing down food with a vengeance I hope no one sees.

For crying aloud, some of the friends I came with are fasting. But I’m this starving girl with a mouth so full I turn my head so no one notices. Those fasting days have been gone for awhile and life seems to demand a steady supply of food just to keep going strong.

A gentleman walks toward me, nods, and taps a finger to his brain. He knows. I need this food just to be able to think.

But there’s a booming voice inside and I tilt my head toward the open doorway as the African-American preacher shouts it out. “Bow in the name of Jesus Christ!”

I’m spellbound as he continues. His passion draws me in and engages my soul in all that matters most, as does the older lady with glasses on the mid-ridge of her nose, speaking of things that bring her to righteous anger.

I smile, then reach out and thank her for saying what I want to say. In a world of relativism where truth is perceived as judgment, seeing one dare to speak up for truths that are dying out is refreshing to say the least.

Friends, it’s still wrong to cheat on your spouse.

It’s still wrong to lie and steal.

It’s still wrong to beat your kids.

And get this—it’s still wrong to embrace a gay or transgender lifestyle.

Most of the people who say truth is relative and life should be gauged by one’s own happiness [if you want to live a gay life-style, do so], don’t truly believe what they say. When rubber meets the road and their spouse cheats on them [for the sake of his own happiness], they have no trouble labeling it wrong with the most severe judgment.

The problem rises when we choose to label certain things wrong because they affect us, but claim truth to be relative for other areas that don’t affect us.

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A sovereign God Who created the universe gets to choose what is best for the whole of His universe. The fact that humans are able to pronounce such great displeasure and judgment on things that rock their world, but declare others judgmental for hanging onto truth in a rocking world, is but proof of their mortality.

We are humanly capable of defending our own hearts but mortally incapable of living for the heart of God—unless we are indwelled by the Spirit of God.

Spiritual warfare doesn’t just happen. We must speak it out, seek it out, proclaim it out.

We must fight for it, deny for it, reach for it.

We must dare push through the wall of apathy in our culture, and engage the deepest things of God in a world which allows things of the surface to rule.

You don’t have to be burnt up in a burning world; you must be lit up in a dark world. And you must know that, as light overtakes darkness, so every single truth of God will overtake the apathy and relativism of man.

I bite into a flax seed, and its bitter flavor pierces my mouth. Where did that come from? Sweet granola with bitter seeds?

They’re bitter, but entirely nutritious—and the whole of the granola is crunchy sweetness, chock full of nutrition for a day out.

When truth seems bitter, know that it is God’s invitation to wholeness, a life made sweet with His presence. You cannot claim the Presence of God without giving yourself wholly to the heart of God.

Some of the bites you take may have bitter flavor. Take them anyway, and your life will be blessed with the entirety of God’s gift of life, just as my granola was crunchy and sweet even though it was filled with bitter flax seed.

If I had left them out, that bag of granola would have missed one of the most nutritious ingredients. Leave out the truths with a bitter sting to them, and you begin to merge away from the entire picture of wholeness God wants to grace your life with.

As the booming preacher shouted it out, “Bow in the name of Jesus Christ,” so may your life walk it out, “Truth is found in the heart of God.”

How to Foster Honor in a Younger Generation

The younger girl spoke vehemently, and I watched the older lady wilt.
I watched her wilt because she knew what I saw—that tones of such a nature are rarely becoming when directed toward a person three times your senior.
It was awkward. But more than that, sad. How honor loses it’s seat in our society baffles me. And as she spoke, I knew there was truth her mother needed to hear, but was unable to hear because it was spoken with such heat and disrespect.
Years of the same old had brought the ugly side forth. Like a dam waiting to burst, the girl’s heart had finally had enough, and she was letting her mother know. But in letting her mother know, there was an even more vital thing she didn’t know.
When we speak the ugly reality, we must speak it in an honorable manner.
 

 

 
There is little left in our culture to properly define and exemplify true honor. In other cultures, we read of children standing when a parent enters the room; here, parents are sassed about and disrespected while kids slouch in front of the TV, remote in hand, guiding their way through another movie which most likely feeds even more disrespect.
When our girls grew older, they began loving high school romance movies. Their father and I put a stop to them because these shows fostered selfish, vain, immature attitudes, rich-kid lifestyles, and pre-mature making out. Many of the main characters showed anything but honor to those around them.
It wasn’t easy to say no to the girls. We wanted them to have fun. But rather than spending hours in front of the TV watching shows that lead them away from God more than toward Him, we tried to foster hard work, intense play and recreation, and more reading rather than more of those shows.
Fill your child’s life with the good and they will have little time for the bad.
What are we feeding our kids? And why?
It’s not uncommon to walk into a home and have a child ignore your presence completely because his eyes are glued to his video game. If you say hello, you get a quick, reluctant response as if you’re not worth the time and effort to greet.
In our culture it is not unusual to see men wilt while wives emasculate them and strip them of their dignity—in public, at that. We forget that to a man, honor speaks love—just as to a woman, time, tenderness, and affection speaks love.
We attribute a man’s need for honor to an egotistic desire for recognition and status, while forgetting that they were created a certain way for a reason—and it’s not sexist to affirm that need and put forth effort to meet it.
In many other cultures, the elderly are cared for, respected, and seated at the table with their families; in our culture, they are often passed over, neglected as grown kids run their own families, and despised as “old fashioned” when they try to speak wisdom into a younger generation.

 

 

 

When a president in the most powerful country of the world is elected, people drive cars with demeaning bumper stickers and run protests until people get hurt. This happens regardless of which party is elected—because people have forgotten that in the same breath as we’re asked to honor God, we are asked to “honor all men, and to “honor the king”. [1 Peter 2:17]
In our culture, we’ve forgotten the dignity of honoring a person for his office or calling more than for his perfection. We’ve lost our fear of God, and of those whom He’s placed in powerful positions. We forget that despite our greatest efforts, God still has the final say of who enters the oval office in the White House.
When David was on the run, trying to escape a wicked king who was hunting him down out of sheer jealousy, he had opportunity to kill the king himself. Rather, he cut a corner off Saul’s robe as he slept—and later berated himself for doing so. He warned his men severely not to kill God’s anointed.
His honor moved Saul to repentance, and he returned from his jealousy driven man-hunt in shame. [1 Samuel 24]
David was able to show honor because he first possessed it. Only when honor is known vertically [with God] can we show it horizontally [to others].
The young girl in the first paragraph was obviously frustrated with her relationship with her mother. I spoke with her, for the trial had lasted for many years.
“You must continue to be honest with your mother, but you must change your tone. There’s a way to own your feelings in an honorable manner.”
Ladies, we can twist our faces into an angry knot—or we can express our feelings in a loving manner.
We can speak vehemently and forcefully to the aged—or we can allow powerful truth spoken in love to work its own force.
We can shake our head in disgust at our men—or we can get into their heads and learn more about them, including how they are hard wired to need honor because that’s what God created them to need.
When we speak to our men, we need to treat them with the same courtesy we treat our girlfriends. Every relationship only lasts with certain dynamics in place, including your marriage. Never expect your man to put up with tones and attitudes you wouldn’t expect your friend to put up with.
If a friendship cannot thrive with certain things, neither can your marriage. Accept that fact, and cease to blame your man for being so sexist.
We can ignore the aging parents, or we can sit them at our dinner table and glean from their years of experience before walking the same journey. We can absorb the fact that we wouldn’t even exist had they not given their own time and energy for our well-being and care.
“Your mother needs to hear the truth,” I urged the young lady. “But she will hear the hard things spoken in a soft way much better than she will wade through a rebellious attitude. Allow raw truth spoken in love to work its own power.”
 

 

 

 
We mistake pretense for honor, but nothing could be further from the truth. When we learn to speak honorably, we have an open door to speak even more clearly. Honor never implies shutting down or putting up with wrong or hurtful things.
Being an honorable person simply means that you show respect as you disagree with another. Others will listen more carefully to you—not less—when you begin to know and possess your own honor.
Honoring others is not only for their benefit, but also for yours. When you see the value God places on you, you will be loathe to represent yourself in a manner others find distasteful and even disgusting. No one, not even your girlfriends, appreciate seeing a woman put down or dishonor her man, her friends, or her kids.
Own your worth and dignity by speaking honestly, but honorably!

How to Be Your Child’s Best Friend

I dropped her off in Seattle at 5:00 a.m., and whispered loud, “God, thank you for a mother like her.”
She had hugged me long before walking away. And when she walked away, somehow she stayed with me. Because no matter how many changes come, somehow her heart syncs with Christ’s, and I’m in awe of her grace and presence of love.

My mother left a legacy of love behind her. She has more patience and grace for ten children than most have for two, and I’m watching her after thirty seven years so I can learn more of the Christ in her.

My mother cares little for earthly things, but much for heavenly. After, and even during raising her own ten kids, she’d bring in other kids who needed a home. She’d bring out the math books for those kids as well as her own, and she’d hold and nurture them at night just as she held her own.
Now that her ten are grown and most of us have left home, she has four girls in her home from three different families. Girls who need her love and care because they’ve been through more than girls should have to walk through at their ages.
She’s reading books and learning all she can about helping others—and all the while she’s serving her own family.
My mother knew how to turn ancient old houses into cozy homes, how to serve her family without resenting it or thinking she’d be better with a career. She took what money she had, and multiplied it with her contentment. And no matter what, she always loved, laughed, and shared her heart with our own.
A child cannot make her mother her best friend. Only a mother can make herself worthy of that name. My mother did, even through those years many call turbulent teens. Somehow she knew how to require obedience while still holding the heart.
All ten of us knew beyond doubt that mama loved our hearts no matter how icky they were, and that, when our lives were blessed, she was happy enough to soar through the sky with joy. And when we were tots, all of us knew she was in charge and had the final say.
We didn’t get to boss mama around because mama knew that kids in charge of their own lives bear too much weight on their shoulders—weight meant only for adults to carry. She led us to good places because we weren’t wise enough to do so on our own.
We learned that mama meant what she said—and it was all said in love. And I asked her the other day, “Mom, how would you train your eleven year old son to clean his room as I’ve asked him to?”
“Consequences—I just wouldn’t put up with it,” she replied.
I run upstairs and follow through. I know by her example that grace and love doesn’t mean permissive disobedience. It’s a bit like Christ, Whose love washes away sin.
Contrary to what some teach, Christ’s love, when fully realized, removes sin from our lives rather than condones it. No one can know Love without being changed by that Love.
My mother knew that true love in her would guide is to Love Jesus truly—because isn’t that what the heart was created for most of all? She knew that requiring obedience in love would ultimately enable us to know what Christ’s gift of love really meant.
When we’re not changed by Love, we don’t truly know love.
If Love didn’t change lives, it wouldn’t be Love at all.

Perhaps, rather than expecting Love to accept all things, we need to accept that Love changes all things. 
Love is what love is—and when you know Love, you do what love does.
What amazes me most about my mama is her lack of pride. She really doesn’t care about any kind of persona—she’s just her, and just being her means her heart is open wide to live and love with no agenda.
Her heart, it’s kinda like an open book. You get to read it, and you also get to have your own heart read. Nothing’s threatening because when love is, there’s only growth to be found and love to be shared in the best days or worst. I think this is why Christ in her is so alive—because hasn’t He said He’s with the lowly, but abases the proud?
Kinda like all being human together rather than some of us trying to be super-human when we’re not.
A week before mama came, I attended the funeral of my dear friend’s mother. As I watched the family share, I observed a girl go up to the microphone who was not immediate family. Many years ago, she had been invited to my friend’s home, and there she found love, belonging, and blessing enough to cause her to return many times over—and cry hardest at the beloved mother’s funeral.
Another mother who left a legacy of love.
Today, what will you leave behind you? What are your priorities? What drives you most? What satisfies you?
Will you leave the world as barren of love as when you came, or will it be a better, richer, fuller place because of you?
Bring hearts to your own. Whether you have ten kids or two, love on them extravagantly—and then,dare to love even more.
Will your legacy be worthy of bringing you fruit, and will it praise you in the gates long after you’re gone? [Proverbs 31:31]
I drove home from Seattle with the sun rising above the mountains, and my thoughts twirling with life-giving truth. Early risers took to the four-lane freeway with me, and I’m impressed with how much can be accomplished so soon in a day.
It’s a bit like life. What we choose to accomplish, we will. Because where our treasures are, there our hearts will be.

May our treasure be changeless love so we can bring love to a changing world. 

~Flax-Seed Brownies~

Take note, sisters, there’s a brownie recipe so nutritious you could eat it for breakfast–but it’s still delicious!  My man loves them as well, which is a huge success! [Most men, we know, wrinkle noses at the mere thought of flax seed in brownies ;)]

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 & 1/2 cups golden flax meal
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
1 cup brown sugar or 3/4 cup honey
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chocolate chips, divided

Mix all ingredients together except 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Pour into greased 8×8 pan, sprinkle 1/2 cup chips on top, and bake @ 350* for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, cool, and enjoy!

How to Find Life in a Thousand Ways

The sun’s shining hot today, and I’m pushing the hoe into broken soil, furrowing rows long and deep.

Placing tiny seeds into soil and covering them up is a task for the trust filled. No one knows how, but those seeds actually bring forth life in the dark earth. Who knew that death for a seed could mean life for a family?

The kids run wild on the dusty farm that’s being renovated for our friends. This massive place is a gift to our summers, as well as the people who own it. Eight kids learn gardening together, hoeing down rows of weeds in summer sun. They dip in the creek and run wild, chasing chickens and cuddling furry bunnies.
We all soak up heat from bon fires while spring peepers end their nightly song and the world goes silent under a dark sky.
Even the cows cease munching when the moon comes out. And here, we sit, thoughtful and quiet in the wake of another night.
The body needs rest just as the soul does.
Lately, we’ve all needed soul rest because we’ve gotten another call with dread news. They don’t seem to end. This time, it’s one of my dearest friends who’s lost her mother in the blink of an eye before she could get there.
My heart breaks, tears apart a little. Losing a mother is no small thing. And on Easter, when we were all smiling and hunting eggs and I had looked into her face while we spoke of Christ rising in victory above all things in our lives—right about then, her mother rose to meet Jesus.
We didn’t know it until later. And when she got the call that her mother died, it was hard to feel that she risen, instead.
It’s more like news pounds us and hits so hard we go into shock. We’re devastated beyond words. When it happened to me, I couldn’t believe a person could go numb quite like I did.
Now, it’s her.
I sit at my kitchen table the same day with my another friend who’s just lost her mother. And I watched little ones a few weeks ago who had lost their mother a few years ago, when the boy was just a baby. Other friends have lost their brother, and it doesn’t seem to stop, this saying good-bye thing.
Sometimes, we don’t even get to say good-bye. They just slip away—we call it death.
My bare feet dig into soft, black soil, as I sacrifice clean feet for the feel of earth on my skin. My friend prays aloud over the seeds she’s planting, and then places even rows of labeled markers at the end of each row.

That night I’m showering the day’s dirt off my body, and He asks me if I’m willing to give up my fondest dream. I say it loud in my heart, a great big yes. I’m willing to die this death because my God is One of Life, and when He asks me to die to something, He always replaces it with life lessons I’d never learn if I hung on to what I wanted—or even thought I needed.
I know in my heart that if I were to die a thousand deaths, He would allow me to live a thousand blessings to replace them. This is why I hesitate less and less to let go of things I’ve held on to so tightly my knuckles became white.
God never, ever asks us to give something up without replacing it with something better. And when we hang on to what we want, we lose the peace we need most of all. We may run aside of God’s will for us, but lose out more even when we think we’ve gained.
Because what the soul needs most of all is to die to itself so that new life can come. When the heart breaks wide open, rather than close it up tightly, we need to leave it open and broken so that Love can pour itself all the way into the deepest cracks.
When you cover up, close up, and curl into a tight ball of avoidance, Love doesn’t get to seep inside.
 
It’s OK to be broken. Christ came to make us whole, and He can’t make us whole if we’re not broken first of all.
It’s OK to feel like you’ve lost it all. It’s Ok to let go, to release the very thing you thought your life depended on. Because when you let go, you get to hang on even better. Hanging onto God Himself, means you’re safe—from all of it.

I pick up the phone to call my friend who’s lost her mother . She doesn’t answer. I know the feeling of having the life drained right out of you so hard you can’t even answer your phone.
My heart breaks for her. It’s going to be a long road through grief. Walking into your mother’s empty craft room the months before Christmas, alone, when you’ve always created gifts together wouldn’t be easy.
But how could our loved ones meet Jesus if they stayed here, clothed in their earthly bodies? How could they know their greatest joy if their spirits hadn’t let go of mortality? How can immortality be known without the death of mortal bodies?
Do we know, right in our tears, that letting go means abundant life? That when we get the call, and our hearts go down, our loved ones are rising high?
And us still alive on this planet, when we die a thousand deaths, when we release the things God is asking us to give up, we can know beyond doubt that following through means we get to live a thousand blessings.
Because God never asks you to die without promising you life. He only asks you to die temporarily so you can live eternally. 
I push the seeds into black earth, and I smile.
No one but God could bring life out of death. And I trust Him fiercely.

He Goes Before

“The LORD was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.” [Exodus 13:21]

I ran upstairs with a lump in my throat. Saying goodbye was never easy, but this time, the old farmhouse was even more empty than before.

Sibling number six had just gotten married, and her room was empty, still, lacking those two vibrant sisters of mine who always brightened my visits home. Living forty hours away from family made me wish everything stayed the same when I did get to come home.
But everything changes. Dad’s beard was more grey, mom’s hair a bit more white. And, they were talking of selling the home place.
Gone would be the old wooden gate my brother built for Mom before he passed away. I thought giving him up was change enough, but life keeps moving at such a pace I wonder how the heart can keep up.
Sooner or later, even Dad and Mom won’t be hearty, busy, healthy. And, sooner or later, they will be gone. That’s a change I dread more than most.
We’ve all gone from one large, happy nest to being scattered over the four corners of the earth, as we like to say. One sister leaves for Africa soon, the home she loves more than here. Another sister mothers six girls in Canada while another is about to give birth to her first born in South Dakota.
Two kids out of ten remain at home, and the place may soon be sold to another family of ten, just like we used to be. Life is a swirl, a flurry, and even my own darling kids are growing at an alarming rate.
I can’t hit “pause”. On anything. Not even my own wrinkles, age, or youth. The next birthday will come when it comes, just like the ones before, and the daughter will ask for shoes a few sizes larger than my own while she stands tall at my side.
This is freaky, scary business. Sometimes I want to bury my head under blankets while life speeds by. I mean, really, who ever thought I’d be thirty six years old with a twelve year old nearly as tall as her mama– and nowhere close to being done growing.
They eat, and they grow. That grocery cart in Costco holds enough to feed an army and I grow silent when I see the bill. With four in tow and an over loaded cart, I get plenty of stares.
I’m proud of walking town with a ring on my finger and four lovely kids around me. Life is good, and I’m blessed. But I still can’t hit pause. Soon, they will be teens, then be gone, and it will be my husband and I sitting in those chairs with greying hair and bones just a bit more brittle than before.
So why this dread of change?  Isn’t change what makes the world go round? Literally, the world as we know it would cease to exist if we all stayed young and the kids never left home.
Because if no one grew up and left the nest, no babies would be born. If no one grew old, the young would be left to navigate life alone.
If there was no death of the seed planted in the ground, there could be no birth of new plants springing up.
If leaves didn’t grow brown and fall to the earth, new leaves wouldn’t form in spring.
Life comes in stages, in phases, full of change, with nothing permanent. Even trials don’t last forever, though we think they will. And each season is just that– a season that will soon be over.
The mother drowning in school books will soon be left with a quiet house. And the mother with the quiet house need not fear that this phase of her life will prove less fruitful.
Fruitfulness is a choice, not the happen-stance of a certain phase of life. Fruitfulness comes when the heart is fixated on the Creator and just flat out making the most of each phase as it comes.
Let the kids be young, then let them grow. Let them surround you constantly, then let them leave more than you wish they would. Let yourself be “mama”, then “Mom” by some growing son who wishes to appear manly.
There is nothing to fear. Not even old age, empty house, or growing kids approaching teen years. “Perfect love casts out fear” [1John 4:18], and He’s come to bring abundant life that doesn’t end when one season flows into the next before you catch your breath.
You are born with purpose, created by a magnificent God, and you have no more say over your life than you did over your birth. He has a plan, a story to write, and He wants us to walk each one without turning away in mental avoidance. Each phase of life has His stamp of approval, His touch, His grace, His answers, and His deliverance.
We have only to hold His hand, and all of it becomes a story of grace, one more stroke of His brush over the canvas of our lives. He brushes beauty, He breathes grace when we fully live in each present He brings. Life no longer becomes an inevitable rush grasping us without mercy; it becomes a flow of grace, a story unfolded, a rest learned that will lead us straight to the end with both purpose and peace.
We have only to hold His hand, and follow. Only to find Him, walk with Him, delight in what He gives and thank Him from the depths of our hearts for it. We have only to worship, to be thankful, to rejoice in the place we have in His story.
Because it remains that, at the end of it all, it really is His story, not ours. And because He’s good, He wants to bless us at every turn of the road, not just some. We have only to find those blessings and really live them up.
Let the years unfold with all the changes they bring, because when the heart is set on Christ, more years mean more wisdom, and changes call for added dimensions of grace. The soul becomes rich, supple, amply supplied by tasting of it all. We need fear no passing years, need dread no change, because embracing it all means being embraced by Christ.
Let such a Love lead us straight on with uplifted eyes, right into change without a hint of fear because this life is meant to be power-filled by a powerful God, to be love-drenched by the Founder of Love, to be safely lived in Arms that know how to carry us right around the next turn of the road to our final destination.

Broken is Better than Brittle

In my mind’s eye, I see the earth baked hard and brown for the vast expanse of it. If rain were to fall, it would cause rivulets of water to stream unchecked right over the brittle surface, falling down and away in a crystal stream over the edge.
Brittle can’t absorb water like broken can. Break that earth, and it will absorb the water, softening its depths into soil made rich for seeds to grow.
Life broke me for awhile. I rather know what it’s like to want to bash my head into the wall to relieve the pain and pressure. I kinda know that feeling of wondering what it would be like if that semi headed my way on the highway just crashed into my car. Of asking God, “Why is she dying of cancer, and not me?”

 

 

 

 

 

I know how to conjure every possible way to avoid and eliminate the things causing pain. I know how to spend endless hours of tension trying to tell my heart everything’s OK—when I’m not OK.
Sometimes life brings the unexpected. The phone call comes, and your brother’s disappeared into eighty feet of foreign water. You think he’ll surely come walking along the bank, but he doesn’t, and after three days they pull his limp body out.
You bury him on the mountain side, and stare at his coffin. It refuses to open, forever. His phone rings and your mother needs to answer it and tell one more person that her son is gone—and he’s not coming back. The mountain side is wet, dark, and smelly, a blur of people until you climb into that long bus, head to a house you don’t know, hit the pillow, and ask for sleep.
Broken is what we were. Here, there was no place for avoidance, no way to pressure the heart into being OK. We accepted it.
Flying through the clouds toward US soil, I realized that my heart felt as soft as they appeared. No need to bash my head against the wall or spend nights trying to find a mental way out. I was no longer afraid of being broken. I just was.
Here, I learned that broken is OK. Broken is better than brittle. Broken means love gets to pour in and grace holds my hand. Broken means truth over takes denial, and truth always, always sets us free—even if the truth is that we’re so broken we don’t know a way out, or around, or over.
The broken end is the first and only way to a whole new beginning. This is why, my friends, we need never, ever be afraid of broken things. Saving grace delivers us not only from sin, but from those places we avoid, skirt around, or deny.

Saving grace helps us acknowledge the pain, then release the pain.

Your worst nightmare, though you don’t know how to walk through it, may well become your greatest avenue to wholeness. Embrace your broken places—Jesus will meet you there with the truth about your pain, and then, with the truth of your deliverance.

Ten Dollars Worth of Furniture!

I love creating beautiful out of ugly! And I think Chalk paint to be about the best invention ever.
 
 This summer, after purchasing our first home, I found an old, free hutch placed beside the road. I nearly left it there–and now, I’m so glad I didn’t! I want to show this process to anyone else who loves furniture, but never buys new because of the pocketbook.  

We wiped this piece down to rid it of excess dirt, removed drawer handles and door knobs, then gave it the first coat of inexpensive,Walmart-brand chalk paint {no need to pay for Annie Sloan’s}. It dries quickly, so by the time the first coat is complete, you can turn around and start the second. 

When the second coat is dry, take a piece of sandpaper and distress the edges and surface–as much or as little as you wish. Wipe off excess dust with a dry rag, then coat your entire piece with Polycrylic Protective Finish. If you prefer a duller look, choose the chalk paint wax instead, but I find it much less protective. 

 

Lay all your hardware on a piece of cardboard and cover them with metallic spray paint. They will look like new–and one can of that stuff will last forever. I used to purchase new nobs and handles–no longer!  
When all is said and done, you’ll have a beautiful, vintage piece of furniture to grace your room–and all for nearly nothing! Turn around and sell it if you wish, but I’m hanging on to mine:) 
 
Next, I found a coffee table for $10 at a yard sale. I did the same procedure on that one, then went to more yard sales to find decor. It’s so much fun to watch our home take shape while staying within our budget! 

For those of us who dislike our current furniture but don’t want to purchase new, it’s relatively easy to give that old headboard, dresser, or end table a make-over. You’ll be glad you did!