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Why I Had to Go to Jail

January 31st, 2014

 

Sitting on the hard floor with my feet extended,
the contrast of my warm winter boots nestled between two sets of rubber flip-flops on bare feet struck me. One inmate had carefully written her initials in ink above her toes, because even though they were only rubber flip-flops they were hers, and she wanted to be sure everyone else knew.
Her toenails, peeling shades of different colors, showed hints of a former life where polish was an option –
a life where she was free to do what she wanted.
Now, all of these girls, held captive behind locked doors and wearing matching scrubs, are quickly learning that freedom is something they need in their heart.
They’ve learned in a very real way that drugs and abuse don’t bring freedom even when the doors of life are unlocked.
I’m learning, too, that freedom is something I experience from the inside out.
And that’s why last night, I had to go to jail.
I needed to be surrounded by these girls who are hungry for peace, for joy, for God.
I needed to be reminded that God is working in big and mighty ways in the most unexpected places.
I needed to hear their weak but hopeful voices singing praises to a God they are just learning to love.
I told the girls last night they do more for my soul than words can express.
They inspire me.
They make me laugh.
Most of them have every reason in the world to have fallen into a pit, 
but they are learning to own up to their mistakes and search for ways to make a better life for themselves and their family.
They are finding freedom in jail.
And if they can find freedom in jail,
can’t we find it here in our day-to-day life where doors are unlocked and we can move freely from one place to the next?
Can’t we raise our hands to the sky and say, 
THANK YOU, LORD, FOR SETTING US FREE?
Today, you can find freedom in the arms of Jesus.
He came to earth and walked with man.
He died a cruel and painful death for each of us.
And then He rose again,
conquering everything we fear, everything we dread, everything we don’t understand.
All we have to do in exchange is believe in Him and His promises.
I went to jail last night because I needed a reminder of what real freedom looks like.

They’ve found it in jail.
And it’s beautiful.
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Why I Had to Go to Jail

January 31st, 2014

 

Sitting on the hard floor with my feet extended,
the contrast of my warm winter boots nestled between two sets of rubber flip-flops on bare feet struck me. One inmate had carefully written her initials in ink above her toes, because even though they were only rubber flip-flops they were hers, and she wanted to be sure everyone else knew.
Her toenails, peeling shades of different colors, showed hints of a former life where polish was an option –
a life where she was free to do what she wanted.
Now, all of these girls, held captive behind locked doors and wearing matching scrubs, are quickly learning that freedom is something they need in their heart.
They’ve learned in a very real way that drugs and abuse don’t bring freedom even when the doors of life are unlocked.
I’m learning, too, that freedom is something I experience from the inside out.
And that’s why last night, I had to go to jail.
I needed to be surrounded by these girls who are hungry for peace, for joy, for God.
I needed to be reminded that God is working in big and mighty ways in the most unexpected places.
I needed to hear their weak but hopeful voices singing praises to a God they are just learning to love.
I told the girls last night they do more for my soul than words can express.
They inspire me.
They make me laugh.
Most of them have every reason in the world to have fallen into a pit,
but they are learning to own up to their mistakes and search for ways to make a better life for themselves and their family.
They are finding freedom in jail.
And if they can find freedom in jail,
can’t we find it here in our day-to-day life where doors are unlocked and we can move freely from one place to the next?
Can’t we raise our hands to the sky and say,
THANK YOU, LORD, FOR SETTING US FREE?
Today, you can find freedom in the arms of Jesus.
He came to earth and walked with man.
He died a cruel and painful death for each of us.
And then He rose again,
conquering everything we fear, everything we dread, everything we don’t understand.
All we have to do in exchange is believe in Him and His promises.
I went to jail last night because I needed a reminder of what real freedom looks like.
 
They’ve found it in jail.
And it’s beautiful.
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When Eaglets Fly

January 30th, 2014

 

I’ve thought a lot this week about what a mommy eagle must do after her babies learn to fly.
 I keep coming back to this:
She must keep flying.
She surely doesn’t return to her nest and pout (which I have done before).
She surely doesn’t quit eating (which I sometimes wish I could do temporarily anyway).
She surely doesn’t decide her purpose in life is over.
No, eagles fly even when the nest looks different.
And along the way they must soar right by their eagle children from time to time and feel a sense of pride as they see the warm wind lifting their kids to great heights.
We are in a season of watching our eagles begin to fly.
Our nest is quickly emptying.
I’ve had a lot of private tears lately.
I’m not going to pretend that wheeling suitcases to our trunk and watching sons walk through security at airports is ever going to get easy for me.
But I’m proud.
And I’m thankful.
Because I know they are all trying to find their way in this big old world,
and I know that they know our nest is here………………….
always.
As a place of retreat, a place for love…………………
a place to call home.
So, this morning, as I finally received official word that Todd has reached his final plane destination and will now journey thirteen hours by train to reach the place where he will stay for the entire semester in south Asia,
I can get ready for work and do my own flying today.
Please keep my boy in your prayers.
He’s flying, and because my hope is in a powerful, mighty God,  I will keep flying too.
No matter how full or empty your nest be,
I’m praying you will fly high today.
Here’s the secret to soaring:
Those who put their hope in the Lord will renew their strength,
they will soar on wings like eagles.

 

Isaiah 40:31
 
 
Put your hope in Him and soar!
friendship

The Gift of Friendship

January 24th, 2014

 

I spent some time last night talking to one of the models who works with the same agency as Olivia.

I could tell she needed encouragement.

I could tell she felt insecure.

Beautiful but doubting herself,

she was wrestling with so many different things about her future.

As I looked into her eyes,

I felt her sadness.

As she talked, I listened.

She needed a friend, and for that moment God called me.

Her words reminded me that life isn’t easy.

Her words reminded me that we all need someone to talk to as we make our way through life.

No matter who you are or what you’ve accomplished,

life can still be uncertain and very hard to navigate when you try to make it on your own.

I’ve spent many nights listening to Olivia pour out her own heart.

Her fears, her insecurities, and her struggles

are just like any other teenage girl  who is trying to find her way through a world that often proves to be anything but nice.

She gets hurt.

She feels discouraged.

She feels afraid.

Life is tough.

It’s tough no matter you’re age.

I’m thankful that along the way Olivia has had great friends.

Friends she can laugh with, cry with, pour out her heart to, and simply hang out with on sunny days and snowy ones.

This week, Todd and I took Olivia and one of her friend’s to the lake to take some pictures.

To me, these photos capture friendship at its best.

To me, these pictures represent my wish for every teenage girl.

Friendship.

Love.

Acceptance.

Trust.

Joy.

Contentment.

A Friend.....Someone to Hold Onto No Matter the Weather

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184

 

 

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Whether you are 15 or 75,

whether you are female or male,

don’t try to walk this road of life alone.

Be a friend to someone near you today and very soon you will discover that your own journey has become richer, fuller, and deeper.

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Right before Nick was diagnosed with his first brain tumor at the age of 7 in 2002,

he was part of a musical at our church entitled,

“Fish Tales.”

This music was all about being strong and courageous as you share the love of Jesus.

Nick loved that musical!!

He sang every song with such passion, leaning his head back and smiling as he belted out every line of Joshua 1:9,

 

“Be strong and courageous,

Do not be terrified.

Do not be discouraged,

for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go!”

 

Nick understood what it meant to love God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.

Because of this, sharing this love was something he did naturally.

 

He was a child who lived life fully and loved people deeply.

 

I was reminded of his smile, his energy, and his love for life a couple of nights ago when we sat down and began watching old home videos.

It was the first time I had watched a video of Nick since he passed away in 2008.

His voice, his smile, his excitement for everything he did (sliding down a slide, hunting for Easter eggs, jumping into a swimming pool) reminded me of why he faced cancer the way he did.

 

He wasn’t afraid of life.

 

But he also wasn’t afraid of death.

 

Nick knew where he was going, and he loved who he would meet there – Jesus.

 

So, when Nick heard he had a brain tumor time and time again over the next 6 1/2 years,

he never complained.

He never questioned.

He never become overwhelmed with fear.

 

I can still envision him sitting on his hospital bed, grinning ear to ear with his thumbs up as he was rolled back for yet another surgery.

He wanted us to know he was good with whatever happened behind those surgery doors.

 

I learned so much about being brave from this little boy, this gift.

I realized recently, though, how easy it is for me to slip back into my fearful tendencies.

 

Todd leaves next week for a semester abroad, and I find myself getting nervous about all the details regarding this trip.

Evan leaves in about two months to live in another foreign country, and I can easily become anxious thinking about his next chapter of life so far from home.

Olivia has her permit, and she loves life behind the wheel of a car.

Watching her leave the driveway with Tim in the passenger seat makes my stomach turn to knots,

and I often have to whisper prayers the whole time they are gone.

 

Some days, I am deeply aware that just because I have already lost two children I am not exempt from losing more.

As I wrestle with that truth, I can almost hear God whispering, “I will carry you through everything your future holds, just trust me.”

 

If I’m totally honest, though, those comforting words often stir up even deeper fear, because I do not want to “need” to be carried through anything else in my life.

 

Sigh.

 

This messed-up thought process of an overly-anxious mom can consume me sometimes.

I have to make very purposeful decisions in order to not lose my mind because of fears like these.

 

I’ve hidden some verses deep in my heart that help me on days when the fear of “what if” overtakes the reality of “what already is'”

because grief, while painful and hard and lonely and scary, pales in comparison to visualizing a cause for any new grief in my life.

 

I was recently introduced to a family who is facing fear head-on as they live with the reality of a very aggressive cancer easily returning to take the mother’s life.

 

They have an inspiring website and message I want to share with all of you who are trying to face fears today.

 

Take a minute to visit:

http://mesothelioma.com/heather/lungleavinday

 

You will leave inspired and encouraged.

I know I did!

 

Help them celebrate Heather’s life and her determination to live life fully in spite of her fear.

 

When we embrace our pain and face our fears,

something happens.

 

We stop “being afraid,” and we begin to live fully.

We begin to notice that every little moment of life is filled with hope and joy!

 

People notice this kind of fearless living, and suddenly they are inspired to become more courageous too.

 

Today, if you find yourself fearing today or tomorrow or maybe still dealing with fear from your past,

consider hiding one of these verses deep in your heart.

 

See what happens when you give your fear to God and say, “I trust you no matter what.”

 

Psalm 56:3-4

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.

In God, whose word I praise,

In God I trust; I will not be afraid.

What can mortal man do to me?

 

1 Peter 5:7

    Give all your worries and cares to

    God, for he cares about you.

     

    When we choose to walk forward

    in life in spite of our fear,

    we are free.

    Free to love.

    Free to laugh.

    Free to hope.

    Free to live.

    Nick reminded me to live with joy as I watched him love life in old home videos.

     

    Heather reminded me to live fully in spite of reasons for fear through her beautiful website.

     

    http://www.mesothelioma.com/heather/#.Ut_2YBAo7IU

     

     

    I hope you will face today with a courage that comes from knowing and trusting Him who holds our tomorrow even when our tomorrows are scary.

     

     

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Why Today is Important

January 17th, 2014

 

There’s plenty of reasons today is important.

 

There’s the overly-said reasons like,

“Every day is a gift from God,”

or

“Today is the “present”…..which makes it a gift.”

or

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”

 

But, there’s also some other reasons why today is important.

 

Today is important because everything that happens in the next twenty-four hours will affect everything that happens in the next one hundred years.

 

Today is important because decisions made today will affect attitudes and actions of tomorrow and the next day.

 

Today is  important because there are people whose paths we will cross once in a lifetime and some of them may be heading our way this very day. 

 

Today is important because the devil will be against us and God will be for us, and we get to choose sides in a spiritual battle that started at the beginning of time and won’t end until Jesus returns.

 

When I think about all the reasons today matters,

I realize trying to hide from it just won’t work.

 

I’ve been called to live fully today.

You have too.

 

So whether you’ll spend the day at home or at work,

be keenly aware of God’s presence in your every action and your every word.

 

He is the Creator of your today,

and what He creates always means something bigger and better than we could ever imagine.

 

This is the day that the Lord has made,

let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Psalm 118:24

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Deserts and Donkeys

January 16th, 2014

 

DSC_8899Do you ever feel like your routine is dried out and boring, like you are following donkeys around in the desert in search of grass.

With every step, do you feel the unbearable heat, the need for relief, and the frustration of being surrounded by situations that seem unchangeable?

What do you do when you wake up in the middle of a hard situation day after day after day?

How do you handle the desert-seasons of life?

What do you think about as you trudge through the hot, barren sand?

Maybe your desert is a

Dysfunctional family

or

Stressful job

or

Unbearable grief

or

an unhappy marriage

or

incurable illnesses.

Maybe it’s something totally different.

Whatever it is that causes you to long for daily relief,

consider the legacy of this one person tucked into one short verse in the middle of Genesis.

The sons of Zibeon:

Aiah and Anah.

This is the Anah who discovered the

hot springs in the desert while he was

grazing the donkeys of his father

Zibeon.

Genesis 36::24

Of all the men and women mentioned in the line of Esau,

Anah gets an extra line.

He did something in the desert.

He did something while going about his father’s business.

He did something while leading the most stubborn animal created in search of grass.

He discovered hot springs.

His life was probably never quite the same after this particular day.

He must have become a hero as he ran back with news that somewhere in the middle of nowhere there was fresh water!

Anah suddenly had a story.

Anah suddenly had a reason to return to that same desert place again and again.

He had found life in the midst of death.

Green grass surely grew all around this hot spring.

Hope was born in the desert when Anah walked with his eyes open through a dry, barren land.

Today, if you find yourself waking up in a desert,

think of Anah and have hope.

Open your eyes!

Look for fresh water in the middle of your dry, barren day!

Hot springs are there………waiting to be discovered by you!

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Wordless Wednesday

January 15th, 2014

 

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Wrestling with God

January 14th, 2014

 

Jacob had tricked his brother out of his birthright,

was forced to leave his home in order to escape the anger of Esau,

and was now returning to his homeland with two wives he had snuck away from their father in the night.

 

I would say every night of sleep had its fair share of fitfulness,

but one night in particular an angel, or God Himself, appears.

 

And on this night, Jacob won’t stop wrestling until he receives some kind of blessing.

 

As the wrestling match unfolds,

Jacob’s hip is injured.

The tendon of his hip (which I’ve read is the strongest tendon in the human body) was “wrenched” out of place.

Isn’t it just like God to break us in the very place we might find our own source of strength and independence?

 

Finally, morning comes, and Jacob has a new name, a blessing from God, and a limp.

 

When we wrestle with God, we are changed from the inside out.

Sometimes we wake up to discover we aren’t even the same person anymore.

It’s almost as if we have a new name.

Sometimes, we realize we walk differently, we’re weaker on our own, we have a true sense of just how much we need God in order to make it through the next day.

But the one thing about wrestling with God that I love the most is this,

 

“When we have the resilience and the courage to keep wrestling through all of our doubts, questions, and fears,

He is faithful to bring about a blessing from our struggle.”

 

I don’t know about you, but I have wrestled with God.

I still do from time to time.

 

And I love the fact that God is big enough to handle our struggles with heartache,

our questions about His plans,

our wrestling with our past mistakes.

 

I love that at the end of all of our spiritually tossing and turning God promises a blessing.

 

I’m leaning on the story of Jacob today.

 

Even if I walk with a limp at the end of my struggle,

I know I won’t walk alone.

 

He is with me.

 

And He is with you too.

 

You can read the story of Jacob’s wrestling in Genesis 32:22-32.

20140329_1428I’ve started about five different posts this morning,

and I’ve found myself backspacing and deleting every single one.

Social media of any kind gives us room to vent, room to share, room to have a voice.

Sometimes I have plenty I could say or I’d like to say about life, about hurt, about pain that’s simply better left unsaid.

Do you ever feel this way?

Do you ever feel your humanness rise up and almost overtake you?

Do you ever feel the weaknesses of being a wife, a mom, a friend, a woman, a human being…….

Sometimes, I feel the bite of the sharp-toothed enemy,

and I want to react by biting back.

I feel the sting of unkind words or the ache of unsaid words,

and I want to step in and fill the air with my own.

But, I’m slowly learning…….oh so slowly.

I’m learning that my silence allows God to speak.

I’m learning that my silence forces me to listen for His voice and His alone.

I’m learning that my silence is His invitation into my heart, my soul, and my mind.

So I backspace.

I delete.

I get quiet.

I pray.

And I listen.

Suddenly, I hear Him.

Not audibly.

But I do hear Him.

He speaks to my soul.

He speaks grace.

He speaks mercy.

He speaks love.

He speaks peace.

He speaks into every ache, every doubt, every fear.

He speaks hope.

He speaks patience.

He speaks victory.

So, today, if you’re feeling frustrated or hurt or angry or lonely or sad or any other emotion that may cause you to type or speak words that you may later regret,

I encourage you to do the same.

Backspace, delete, stop talking, pray, and listen.

Allow God to fill your empty space with His grace.

Because His grace is beautiful, its unending, its powerfully fulfilling.

His grace is big enough to wash away every ugly thought and cleanse every open wound.

I’m soaking in His grace this morning,

because I need it.

I need His never-ending grace all over me, so I can offer that same kind-of grace to others.

I need His love running through me veins, so my heart can beat with His unconditional love.

I need His mercy in spite of all of my flaws, so that I can be a mercy-giver when others occasionally have them too.

We live in a world filled with messed-up people,

and the quickest way to NOT become overwhelmed with the messiness around us is to remember just how messy we are ourselves.

I need a fresh start today.

I need to let go of some things I cannot control.

I need to love no matter what.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

and renew a steadfast spirit within

me.

Psalm 51:10

Thankful for a God who can cleanse me and renew me when I sit still and get quiet long enough for Him to work.

Feeling freed up to love others today.

Feeling so very thankful for the work He did on my heart this morning.

So amazingly aware of just how empty my life would be without His love and praying you feel His love in a mighty way today too.

I love you all so much.