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The Cloud With No Voice

January 28th, 2016

 

“When Moses went up on the mountain,

a cloud covered it.”

Exodous 24:15

I wonder what was going through Moses’ mind as he climbed Mount Sinai.

A sea of people below……..

people he had led into the desert.

Follow me,” he had told them.

And now they were free from slavery but still very much afraid.

And hungry.

And tired.

And confused.

The desert?

You led us into the desert?

I’m sure Moses laid awake in his tent many nights wondering what in the world the next day would hold…………

as he heard the sounds of people all around him  –

sleeping, whispering, crying.

He was the reason they had been moved

from slavery to the desert.

Breaking free is never easy.

And there’s nothing easy about the wilderness.

God now called Moses to climb a mountain……alone,

leaving all the men and women and children down below.

Trust is rarely learned while leaning on someone, and I’m wondering if this was also part of God’s master plan.

This alone time for the Israelites had to be frightening.

So close to God and yet not quite feeling His presence.

They surely felt it.

The distance.

The “do not come too close”- “do not touch” relationship with God was all they had at this point.

The power of God had to be respected before it could be adored.

And they were learning respect the hard way.

But so was Moses.

“and the glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud covered the mountain, and on the seventh day the Lord called to Moses from within the cloud.”

Exodus 24:16

Why did God cover the mountain with His glory for six days before speaking?

Did Moses need to feel the gap too?

Did he need to be reminded of the chasm between himself and the Creator of the Universe?

Did he need to remember what it felt like to wonder exactly where God was………..

so he could tell the people,

“I’ve been there.  

I’ve questioned and doubted too.  

But in His time, God showed up,

and He’ll show up for you too.”

My life continues to be a sea of waves filled with times of questioning God’s presence followed by overwhelming moments of knowing He is right here…………………covering my own little Mount Sinai with His glory.

I know He calls me up…………..to the very top…………..every single day.

But sometimes I wonder where He is when I get there.

So what do I do in those times of questioning???

How do I handle the cloud with no voice???

Sadly, I sometimes want to walk back down…………

down to the wilderness.

It’s easier to stand in the desert surrounded by others who are wondering too.

But when I stay up in the glory of God even when He’s silent something happens as I wait………………..

in the silence.

I begin to hear Him………….not audibly………….but in my heart.

He speaks through things like stuffed sheep and perfume and Facebook posts that weren’t even meant for me.

That’s how He works.

He loves to speak into silence.

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Elijah learned the lesson too.

He longed to hear God speak in a mighty wind.

Don’t we all want to hear Him in mighty ways?

But it wasn’t until Elijah was still enough to hear a whisper that God began to speak.

Still enough to hear a whisper.

I’m thinking God made Moses wait for a reason.

Maybe it took six days for Moses’ mind and heart to be still enough to truly hear…………….

the voice of God.

I’ve learned in my life that I can be near the glory of the Lord yet live way too loudly to know it.

And I’m such a better human being when I don’t live loudly.

It’s almost February and the waves of 2016 have been just like the waves of every other year……………..

Feel His presence

Miss it

Feel His presence

Miss it

Breaking free is never easy.

And there’s nothing easy about the wilderness.

This morning, I feel the wave of God’s presence so strongly, though, and I feel as if He’s reminding me that until the day my faith becomes sight I’d better get use to the wilderness…………….

Because life on this planet is never going to be easy or perfect or desert-free.

I press on.

I fight the good fight.

I climb my mountain.

Every day.

And all those words, “press, fight, climb,” imply effort.

So, today, I’m thankful.

I’m thankful for the wondering and the wandering,

because it always leads me back to Him.

I am a sheep.

And thank goodness, I have a patient, loving, faithful Shepherd.

So do you.

Follow Him.

Even when you can’t quite see Him or hear Him,

He is there.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

He’s whispering,

“Follow me.  Just remember………………..breaking free is never easy.  And there’s nothing easy about the wilderness.”

Keep climbing.

Keep trusting.

Keep waiting.

That’s how you handle a cloud with no voice.

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This sign seems a little pointless today.

And if I’m really honest,

so does the story of Moses and Pharoah as I move through my chronological Bible.

Sign after sign, Pharoah missed God’s message.

And sometimes I worry that I’m missing His signs too.

Seasons have a way of changing the meaning of signs,

 and I’m beginning to wonder what season I’m in right now.

Plagues

Miracles

Charlton Heston – level drama

And here I sit…………..like a warning sign attempting to protect snow-covered grass.

Frozen

Wondering

Feeling out of place as I type.

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Moses felt out of place too, but at least he had a mission.

Trying to free the Israelites from the grip of a man who abused them daily,

it took courage for Moses to stand up to a man who could have easily had him killed.

There’s not much about my world that’s near that risky.

So I read the story of God’s people being released from the bondage of slavery, and I feel unmoved.

And this un-moving of my soul is really bothering me.

How can I be so unaffected by such a powerful story??

I hesitate as I ask myself this question, because I think I know the answer.

A warm house.

Plenty of food.

Good friends.

A loving family.

I read the words of swarms of locust and rivers of blood, and I turn the page like I’m reading a fiction novel.

A novel I’ve ready many times before.

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How can I read His Words and not feel changed in my heart?

Like a grass-protecting sign in the middle of snow, my words don’t match anything around me.

I second-guess every letter I type.

Just as the nearly snow-buried sign surely second-guesses its message,

I wonder why I’m even here…………..

in the world of bloggers.

This may be a writer’s biggest struggle next to having no words at all.

To write or not to write?

Why put more words into a world already FILLED with words?

Why warn of the presence of grass in a field covered by snow?

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And then it hits me.

There’s still bright green grass under this thick blanket of white.

Just because I can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

And just because I don’t feel moved by the story of the Israelites being freed doesn’t mean it isn’t a powerful story.

The message of the Bible doesn’t change just because I do.

God is the unmovable sign.

Not me.

 I’m the silly human who would move the sign just because the weather changed.

God sees the grass when I can only see the snow.

And He sees me even when I can’t see Him.

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 I’m writing today not because I have anything to say.

I’m writing because God has something I needed to hear.

And this is it:

Tammy, even when your soul feels buried, I still see it.

Under the mounds of

tasks to do

and people to love

and lessons to write

and miles to drive

and questions to answer

I still see your soul.

And I will protect it……………always……………even when the signs of this world don’t make sense.

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The story of Moses may sometimes feel insignificant and almost unreal to me,

but my feelings can change nothing about God’s significance or power in this world.

Sometimes all I can see is the snow.

But God still sees the grass.

And even when I can’t see Him clearly,

He still sees me.

And you.

And He cares.

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.

Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to

whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:13

nice and easy

Those roots.

My beautician notices them way before most,

and she has a way of gently breaking the news.

She also frees me up to take matters into my own hands as often as I need.

I head to the store in search of my “true color” when the reality is……………..

my roots scream the truth.

Roots have a way of doing that.

Closest to my skin,

they’re the real me.

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There’s no hiding age or the passing of time when you look closely –

especially in a rear view mirror when the bright sunlight hits just right.

_____________________________

Roots.

The truth.

Why do I want to hide it?

I wrestle with this question every single time I snip the lid off the application bottle.

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Maybe it’s a lot like every other part of my life.

This “nice and easy” way of covering up the things I’d rather others not see.

It’s really not that nice.

Or easy.

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“Focusing on God while failing to know ourselves deeply may produce an external form of piety, but it will always leave a gap between appearance and reality.”  David G. Benner

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My word for the year is “fearless”, and while I’m not quite ready to let my hair speak truth,

I’m ready for my heart to be exposed……………………….

for God to shine so brightly on my roots that there’s no pretending, no room for cover-ups.

I’ve been spending a lot more time lately filling up my own cup.

Reading.

Soul searching.

Being quiet.

But in this root-facing season, I’ve also found myself more affected by the words of others.

I’ve found myself comparing my “truth” to what I can see of others,

and I’ve found myself falling short,

feeling inadequate.

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It finally hit me this morning as I picked up my box of Clairol hair color.

Aren’t we all covering up something?

Grief

Regret

Envy

Sin

Fear

Insecurity

The roots that run deepest are often easier to color than they are to face.

And there’s nothing nice or easy about letting the world see our roots.

I think that’s my biggest complaint about social media these days.

We post the smiles.

We share the news that makes the world say,

“Wow!”

But deep inside we ache.

We wonder if we’re enough.

We question our motives.

We measure life by deeds done or titles earned, and all the while our roots scream truth.

My roots have been screaming loudly lately, like a soul trying to speak into an ear muffled by headphones.

All the while, I’ve purged closets and dumped drawers………………..

Cleaning out things I can easily see while the deeper cleaning needs to happen in places only God can reach.

Search me, God,

and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Psalm 139:23

There’s nothing nice or easy about this prayer,

but then again, when did God say it would be nice or easy to follow Him?

I have been crucified with Christ;

and it is no longer I who live,

but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God,

who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

Galatians 2:20

If my roots are going to expose Jesus,

crucifixion must come first.

Dying to self.

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And I’m just thinking there’s nothing nice or easy about a crucifixion.

I may be covering the roots on my head this morning,

but I’m exposing the deepest part of me to Him who sees it anyway.

It’s not nice.

It’s not easy.

But it’s worth it.

For the word of God is alive and active.

Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.

Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. 

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, 

Jesus the Son of God,

let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses,

but we have one who has been tempted in every way,

just as we are—yet he did not sin. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence,

so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Hebrews 4:12-16

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It’s Not About What You Do

January 14th, 2016

 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my fifty years on this planet, it is this:

It’s not about what you do.  It’s about who you are.

All through high school, I remember struggling with exactly what I wanted to be “when I grew up.”

Pharmacy was the one career I went back to time and time again;

but if I’m really honest, one of my cousins was in pharmacy school; and when we visited her family, I loved hearing about her life.

I don’t think I really wanted to be a pharmacist.  I think I wanted to be her.

She was beautiful and smart, gentle and focused.

I felt like a better person when I was in her presence.

In college, I met my future husband and suddenly I wanted to be whatever it took to be his wife.

I changed my major and poured myself into improving my secretarial skills.

Winning the shorthand and typing awards for my graduating class,

I went on to become a legal secretary.

I remember my first birthday after becoming a wife.

We were in Oklahoma visiting my grandparents and Tim bought me a journal and a book,

Introduction to Christian Writing.”

He saw my love for writing before I even knew what to do with it.

But not too long into our marriage,

we learned our first baby was on the way.

Returning to my job was so hard after holding Erich in my arms.

Within six months, we had juggled jobs and made decisions that allowed me to come home.

I was now a very happy stay-at-home mom.

Years passed.

More babies arrived.

I babysat to help with the expenses of life and give my kids playmates, but I started feeling restless.

Thoughts bounced around in my head, but my journal stayed tucked away in a drawer.

I wonder how different life would have been had I taken time to write through my wrestling.

I can remember so clearly when I started feeling like I wasn’t enough.

Oh, to go back and talk to myself then.

To remind myself that these years were fleeting.

Soak them up, Tammy.

Be thankful, Tammy.

Somehow, though, my mind became consumed with the struggle many stay-at-home moms face when they hear the question,

“So, what do you do?”

Eventually, I returned to school and finished my teaching degree.

God opened the door for me to teach at a private school where my boys attended,

and I’m thankful for the memories of those days.

Even then, though, I was restless.

And even then, my journal remained a book of blank pages.

As the years passed by, I taught, I coached, I tried to be the best mom I could be,

but the restlessness gnawed at me.

Tim walked this silent road of discontent holding my hand…………………

listening……………..

Trying to help me move past the question,

“What do you do?”

I’m fifty now.

I do a lot of different things.

I take photographs.

I write.

I teach.

I take classes in order to finish a Masters in Marriage and Family Therapy.

But the one thing I don’t do anymore is wrestle.

I haven’t really settled into “one thing” that defines what I am………….

but I’ve finally realized,

It’s not about what I do.

It’s about who I am.

As I read and learn and grow closer to God,

I become more and more convinced that this is the secret to being content.

Who am I?

That’s the only question I really need to be able to answer.

I’m a child of God.

I’m a daughter of the King.

I’m a forgiven, grace-covered woman who messes up often but is redeemed always.

I’m a grief-stricken mom who is filled with hope, joy, and peace.

I am chosen.

I am His.

That’s all I need to know.

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Are you wrestling today?

Are you searching for answers?

Are you trying to decide what you should do with your life?

Look up.

Find peace in simply being His.

That’s all that really matters.

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Therefore, if you have been raised with Christ,

keep seeking the things above,

where Christ is,seated at the right hand of God.  
Col. 3:1

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Why We Should Embrace Our Flaws

January 13th, 2016

 

It’s only January 14th in my chronological Bible reading,

and Jacob is already on the scene…………….

tricking Laban in order to leave the family farm with a bigger flock.

I’m amazed at how much deception has already been part of mankind’s history.

From Eve to Noah’s daughters to Abraham to Jacob…………….

our past is laced in lies.

It’s easy to read these stories and feel certain I would never do such things.

Bite the fruit

Get my father drunk

Pretend my husband is my brother

Make a deal and then cause the deal to go my way

These choices seem so avoidable.

But then I look in the mirror…………….

and oh how everything changes when you take a good long look at that person staring back at you.

I’m no stronger than the weakest Bible character.

Doubt and fear got the best of every one of them along the way;

and if I’m honest, they often get the best of me.

Maybe that’s what keeps drawing me back to their stories.

They struggle.

They fail.

And then God shows up.

Every single time.

He’s right there……………………

sweeping up the mess,

mopping the floor.

He has a way of taking all the wrong choices and bringing about something very right.

And I don’t know about you,

but I need Someone just like this walking before me, beside me, and behind me.

I need a Father who looks into my eyes and sees the beauty I often miss as my gaze tends to wander to the imperfections – the flaws.

Last night, a frozen puddle right beside the front tire of my car caught my eye.

I’m really not sure how I saw it in the dark.

The street lights must have hit it just right.

But there it was.

Love.

In the brokenness of the frozen water.

And it was beautiful.

The couple in the car next to me must have thought I was a little strange………….

Getting back out of my car to snap a photo.

frozen love

But when love catches your eye,

there’s always a reason and it’s worth the risk of looking silly.

I really didn’t understand how much this particular heart would speak to me until I got home.

I had noticed the cracks in the heart when I took the picture,

but I hadn’t really soaked in the beauty in its brokenness until I sat down at home and gave it a good look.

The Old Testament is filled with characters just like this puddle.

Broken

Messed up

Flawed

Imperfect

I’m so thankful for a Father who looked beyond all the cracks and saw their beauty.

I’m so thankful for the Author of our own stories who faithfully writes us out of our messes and into His master plan.

There’s no mistake, no weakness, no decision too impossible for Him to transform into a message.

Our messes really do become His message.

Our cracks open our hearts to Him……………….

What if the very things we regret are the only way He is able to truly enter in?

Only broken things need a Healer,

so embrace all the things today that make you feel inadequate and flawed.

Embrace them.

Accept them.

Give thanks for them.

And then let them go………………..

into His hands.

If He could set the story of mankind into motion with the likes of the people found in Genesis,

He can surely keep the story moving right along with people like you and me.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him,

who have been called according to his purpose.”  

Romans 8:28

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If You’ve Ever Needed Glue

January 11th, 2016

 

Yesterday, during Beth Moore’s Breaking Free Bible study video,

she talked about fiery trials we face in life and how God can use them to burn away things inside of us that are impure or ugly.

She then shared a little about her husband Keith’s childhood, and the pain his parents have endured as a result of losing two children.

One day, while talking with her husband about the tragedies, she said he asked,

“I wonder what I would be like today if none of that would have happened?”

Her reply sent chills through my entire body.

She told him,

“You are such a better person healed than you ever would have been well.”

I thought of my own life journey and even the journey of my kids and husband.

While everything about our lives is not perfect, by any means, I do believe we’re finally on a road toward healing.

Not forgetting.

Not moving on.

Not letting go.

But allowing God to be the glue that holds us together……………….

individually and as a family.

family at indian restaurant

We never did have a photograph taken of me, Tim, and the boys with Adrienne in her six short weeks with us,

and I’ve regretted that for 23 years;

but it’s still so hard to look at a family photo without Nick in it.

I think that’s why I’m so passionate about capturing memories with my camera.

I cherish every photo……………so much.

Over Christmas break, all of our kids were home together for the first time in two years.

It was amazing to have the house so full of love.

Olivia had the idea of creating family t-shirts and having a game tournament over the weekend.

tshirt

making shirts

On New Year’s Eve, we got really wild and walked to Speedway late at night for snacks and drinks!

Speedway

The weather was so unseasonably warm we were even able to get in eighteen holes of Frisbee golf one afternoon!

Todd and Erich and Olivia

frisbee serious

And bowling definitely made the list of games for our family competition!

bowling shoes

Looking back on this week of family time, I would be lying if I said every minute was perfect.

When you bring that many personalities together for an extended period of time, there are moments when a little space is probably the best option in order to survive.

But I wouldn’t trade one minute of the week for a week without all of our kids here!

It was the good, the bad, the happy, and sad that made the week so memorable.

And life is no different, really.

It takes the good days, the bad days, the happy and the sad days, to create a memorable life.

I don’t think any of us would want to see ourselves today had we not faced some pretty big hurdles and managed to get over them.

I know I wouldn’t want to know a “well Tammy” today over a “broken-but-held-together” one.

Life is definitely hard.

And aren’t we all in need of a little glue?

I’ll never forget Louie Giglio’s sermon on laminin, the protein that holds our cells together.

Just look at it!

 laminin

Do you see what Louie saw?

Our whole body is filled with tiny crosses literally holding us together!

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Colossians 1:17 says,

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Jesus is our glue.

Physically

Emotionally

Spiritually

Our family, like Beth Moore’s and probably all of yours, has been broken………….more than once.

I’m thankful today and every day for Jesus.

I’m thankful my family and my soul are held together by something powerful enough to make us better than we were before the brokenness.

Are you in need of glue?

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Put your Elmer’s and glue gun aside.

Try Jesus.

 

I’m not a big fan of flying.

Actually, it terrifies me every single time I feel the acceleration of the plane and realize I’m quickly leaving the earth’s surface and heading into the clouds.

As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until Nick’s Make-A-Wish trip to the Bahamas that I finally agreed to step into a winged form of transportation for the very first time in my life…………..at the age of 42.

Until then, I used every possible excuse to avoid getting from one place to another in any other way than a car.

After Nick passed away, I threw caution to the wind and agreed to fly to India to visit an orphanage his foundation helps support, but I had no idea God was preparing me for a life that would require air flight on a much more regular basis.

This past year I experienced several flights that felt much more like an off-road adventure than a smooth journey through the air.  Holding tightly to the arm of my seat with hand and Tim’s arm with the other, I always close my eyes and literally whisper prayers the entire trip, never once caring if anyone was watching me……………I just want the trip to end and the plane to safely land on the ground.

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to frequent flyer miles, Tim and I were able to make a quick trip to Dallas to see our oldest son and his wife for a few days.  On our way home we had a layover in Chicago, and I was feeling incredibly anxious about yet another take-off after a very bumpy flight………………in the dark…………….into a sky that showed signs of storms.

Once again the announcement was made that our flight would have no empty seats.

Why does a full plane seem even more frightening to me, as if a few more pounds will affect its ability to stay in the air?

As Tim and I walked down the long aisle to find seats,  I tried (as I always do) to make eye contact with other passengers as we moved through the plane, smiling and hoping to confirm in my soul that we were on a safe journey by the looks I received in return.

As we reached our first option for sitting together, an extremely happy-faced lady looked up at me and jokingly said, “Are you brave enough to sit by me?”

Her antler headband and gigantic grin must have caused several people ahead of us to keep on moving, but I found her smile inviting and said, “Absolutely!”

Looking back on this moment and her specific question, I can already see how God was working.  I had been talking with my daughter-in-law about what word I wanted to claim as my focus word for 2016 and eventually, with the help of a friend and Mallory, decided on the word “fearless.”

Maybe God was wanting me to realize that I already have a little courage…………at least enough to sit by a woman with antlers!

As I sat down, though, I realized she was also wearing a flight attendant’s uniform.

The Southwest Airlines’ wings pinned to her blue top weren’t the only wings she was wearing, though, because I truly believe she was an angel sent straight to me on this particular night.

Why am I always surprised when events unfold like this one did?

As the plane took off, I told her I’m not a big fan of flying but had never had the privilege of flying next to a stewardess, and she laughed and asked if I wanted her autograph.  I said, “I think I just might!”

She then told me that if I had been on the flight a month earlier I would have been able to read a story about her in the airplane’s magazine.

Of course I wanted to know more, so I listened as she told the most beautiful story about an eight year old boy who was flying alone after visiting his little friend who had brain cancer.  She had been put in charge of this little boy as he flew and when she heard about the illness of his friend he had just hugged goodbye, she asked his mom if he could get on the plane for a few minutes with his friend.  While on the plane, she allowed the two boys to go into the cockpit and put on the pilot’s and co-pilot’s headsets.

She took pictures of the boys having fun and then returned the sick boy to his mother.

When their plane arrived at the next airport, the other mom who was waiting for her son who had been on the visit had already received the photographs on her phone was crying.

These two moms then a letter to Southwest Airlines, resulting in a special dinner in which my antler-wearing friend received an award for her act of kindness.  She was so humble as she told the story, and I could tell this was something she had done not for recognition but as a way of showing love.

You can only imagine how my heart was feeling, though, as she was telling me her story totally unaware that I had lost a son to brain cancer.

I kept seeing Nick’s face, imagining him and a buddy having this kind of memory together!  He would have been grinning ear to ear!

When she finished the story, I felt compelled to tell her mine.

And before we knew it, we were sharing Scripture and even clasping hands from time to time…………..

both certain that our meeting was no accident.

In what seemed like just a couple minutes, the pilot announced our nearing arrival in Columbus and I remembered, for the first time, that I had been high in the sky in turbulent weather yet had talked and talked with this lady as if I were sitting in the backseat of a car.

A jolt of the plane pulled me back to reality, and I looked at my new friend and said,

“This doesn’t even seem to phase you.”

She smiled and said,

“Nope.  We’re just going through some clouds.”

For the first time………….EVER……………I was on a plane in rough weather and felt no fear.

I looked at her and said,

“You have no idea how much I needed this experience with you.”

As we traded phone numbers and hugged,

I could feel peace run through my body.

Southwest ANgel One

Tim snapped a couple photos of us together, then we went our separate ways.

IMG_0941When you’ve met an angel, though, you really never say, “Goodbye.”

They have a way of sticking around in your heart……………………forever.

I believe God knew 2015 needed to end with this kind of gift to carry me through the next year.

I want to be fearless.

I want to trust Him…………in all things.

I haven’t had much time to blog the past few weeks.

We’ve had a lot of things going on with our family that have kept me from being able to put my thoughts into words,

but I’m back and it feels so good.

And the first thing I wanted to share in 2016 was this……………….

Never underestimate the power of God in your life.

You never know when He’s sending someone special your way to give you just what you need for the next season.

God knew I needed an angel…………..

with wings……………and antlers!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity,

but of power,

love,

and

self-discipline.

II Tim 1:7

I’ve thought of you all so much over the past few weeks and wondered how you’ve been……………

I look forward to sharing 2016 with each of you!

It’s going to be a great year!