From our forth floor balcony at Panama City Beach, my husband, my daughter, and I watched the waves roll in and the waves roll out. We could have gotten mesmerized by the rhythmic sight and sound, but it was a different kind of evening on the white sandy beach beneath us. Several boats with blue swirling lights were driving back and forth in search of a young 20 year old who had gotten pulled away from his friends by a riptide. His panicked friends and accumulating spectators lined the shore in hope.
At 11 pm, the search was over, the young man was found. A thriving life ended, and inexplicable grief began.
Only 24 hours later, same balcony, same white sand, same rolling waves. Yet, what we witnessed on this perfect sunset-evening was a young man, dressed in khaki and blue who had set up a twinkling "marry me" sign in the sand. He waited for his sweetheart, and sure enough, she came. He bent to one knee and asked the question that young girls dream of. When they embraced, the condo balconies erupted in applause.
At 7pm, the search was over, the boy got his girl. His anxious thoughts stopped. Uncontainable joy began.
To be honest, I'm not sure what to make of the two extremes, the high and the low of it. I'm still processing the waves of emotion on both ends.
My only consolation with the young man who was swept away so suddenly is to think that Jesus himself was with him, saying, "Come with Me to a better place." There is a better place, I hope you know...maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you there is a better place than this life, and Jesus will take each of us there if we believe in him as our Savior. Yes, He saves us...from messes, from chaos, from riptides.
My genuine hope for this young, engaged, very happy couple is that they will walk with Jesus in the land of the living. Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that you don't have to walk this life alone, and that Jesus will help you in each moment and in every relationship. Yes, He helps...in the happy and in the hard.
We will always have the extremes...the high waves of over-the-top-joy as well as the low undercurrents of knee-buckling sadness.
Life and death and everything in between. The hope is this: Jesus is in the midst of it all.
Maybe that's why I'm writing this right now...to tell you that Jesus is in your midst...and to tell you to hold His hand in your extreme.
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
Over the past 18 months, I've become a grandmother to two adorable little angels. With each of their very first breaths, I entered and re-entered into the "grandparent-craze-club". I totally get it now, and I will try really hard to spare you of my several hundred pictures at this moment.
As I became Mimi, my oldest daughter became Mommy. Can I tell you how exhausted I am by watching her manage these two sometimes-human-angels? Did I really do ALL of that oh so long ago?
In reflection of my mothering years, here is a look at each stage from the rearview mirror:
Newborn-Toddler: Nurturing, (and praying). Primary questions come to mind, "Are they present and accounted for?" "Did they get fed?" "Are they somewhat clean?"
Elementary years: Teaching, (and praying). Teaching how to brush their teeth, how to read and write, and how to get along with their siblings are just a few things that caused grey hairs to sprout all over my head.
Pre Teen-Teen: Training, (and praying). Oh my, these years. Talk about grey hairs, now add wrinkles around the eyes and several more forehead creases! When I ponder too long on four different teenagers learning how to drive, I have a come-apart all over again. And then there's teaching how to manage blooming emotions and teaching how to respect authority... so much, so much.
Young Adult: Listening, (and praying). As each one of my kids took flight, phone calls were filled with lots of highs and lows. I listened carefully; I also learned to read between the lines. They felt far away for the first time, but somehow, (I believe it was through my prayers for them), they were even closer in my heart.
Adult Children: Watching, (and praying). What a paradox, adult children. They're fully grown, yet they're still growing. I'm in this stage now, and I am more of an observer; like watching my daughter become a mommy. I'm also watching each of my kids grow up as they deal with their real life "stuff." Career paths, relationships, faith. Sometimes it's so awesome, and sometimes it's just not. When they were toddlers at my feet, I could pick them up and just hold them when it hurt. Now, the BEST thing (and sometimes the only thing) I can give them is prayer.
No matter where you are in your parenting, prayer is the lifeline, for you and for your kids. Remember, you are talking to the One who knows your child better than you do--in each and every stage! Believe this crazy truth: God can out-love even a mother's full on loving heart! So talk to Him.
This reminds me of a motto that the Lord whispered to me way back in those 24/7 toddler years. It's this:
"Talk a whole lot to God about your kids, and talk a whole lot to your kids about God."
So parent, choose to nurture, teach, train, listen, watch, and pray.
I'm slowly unpacking my thoughts from the Colorado trip I went on with my husband Mac about two months ago for our 31st anniversary. We splurged for a few nights in mid-April and went to the Broadmoor hotel in Colorado Springs. Wow, it was f...a...n...c...y, way more than we knew!
While there, a wonderful thing happened while I was out on a long walk taking in the rugged beauty of the Colorado mountains. Mac had a fishing adventure, and it was way too cold for this southern girl to go alongside, so I stuck around the hotel grounds for the morning hours.
Speaking of cold, after biking some and walking some more, I was more than ready to go inside. The hotel offered one fireplace-lounge after another on several floors, and I already saw myself curled up with a book in one of these inviting spots. As I walked along briskly, I told myself, "Just get there, inside, warmth, ahhh." Meanwhile, someone's voice gently interrupted my bee-line mentality. A middle-aged woman who was touring the historic hotel and grounds asked me from a distance, "Excuse me, do you mind taking my picture?" With the large pond, the old hotel, and rugged mountains in the background, it was definitely a great picture spot, so I responded with a "Sure!" (If she had known of my picture taking inability, she would have waited for the next passer-by.)
I walked toward her; I was cordial, but I was also quick. Bottom line, I was cold. I took her picture, and I took it again and again, to cover my bases.
Then I left her alone.
As I walked away from her and toward the nearing warmth, I couldn't ignore the nudge in my spirit. Hmmm, was I supposed to say something more to this lady? Unable to shake this thought, I confessed and prayed, "Lord, if you had something more in mind, please bring her back around."
Fast forward a couple of hours. After a hot shower (and praying a few more times the above prayer), I then meandered my way to a random fireplace lounge. Sitting there by myself, I texted a picture of the cozy scene before me and sent it to my adult kids, letting them know that I was doing quite fine at the moment.
After turning the pages of my book for a bit, I looked up to simply stare at the crackling fire and get lost in it.
But that's not what I saw.
Wow! What do you know? It was the lady...who was by the pond...now, sitting right in front of me.
Does God hear my prayers? Yes, oh yes, he does. Obviously it was his will to answer my prayer with, "Ok, you asked, so I'm bringing this woman back around to you."
To let you know, when I saw her sitting there, I was taken off guard and got really nervous! I'm an introvert. Talking to strangers is not my thing! But, the deeper "thing" is that I knew God brought this woman to me again, and so I needed to follow through. By faith, I moved to the chair beside her and started with, "Hi".
And I smiled...warmly this time.
We engaged in small talk, introducing each other. I fumbled with my words somewhat, but pressed on. I ended up telling her about what just transpired (taking her picture, regretting not being more friendly, my prayer, and now the two of us sitting in this "random" place). I also boldly/fearfully told her I was a Christian writer, and gave her my card (that I had by faith put in my pocket just in case God answered my prayer). I told her about my website and the online ministry called Soul Sisters, both designed to encourage women in God's word. She received my card and my kindness with a hint of curiosity and...that was that.
The amazing thing is, the next day, Mac and I went about 20 minutes away to tour the Garden of the Gods, a vast array of red rocks that one can wander through for miles. As we were coming out of the visitor center, guess who caught my eye? The lady by the pond, by the fireplace, was now by the garden about to walk some trails.
I yelled her name as if she were my childhood friend! Ha, I think i might have scared her a bit, but we both laughed at yet another chance meeting. We chatted again, and I merely stated, "Wow, this is more than a coincidence."
God heard me, and he answered me, not once, but twice.
And I'm still praying for this lady...now, by name.
I'm a visual learner therefore I journal most everything that I want to know and remember. One of the consistent little pictures that I draw every morning beside the current date on my journal page is a quick sketch of two hearts side by side, slightly overlapping, with a cross going straight through the middle of the hearts. The hearts are meant to represent Mac and me, and the cross, of course, represents Jesus. When I draw this simple picture, I pray something like this over our relationship:
Lord, may your strong love pull us together.
May your love fill us and flow through us towards one another.
Bind us together and make us move towards other people.
Use us, O Lord, however you want, and where ever we go. Amen.
Well, not too long ago, Mac and I went to Spearfish, South Dakota. We stayed at the Secret Garden, a lovely Bed and Breakfast near the bubbling Spearfish Creek. In this small historic town, our hope was to visit some young friends of ours, John Michael and Erica Elder. Mac got to fish with John Michael, and I enjoyed coffee with Erica. We saw their new home, met their adorable little a six month old JJ, and had dinner with Erica's parents. What a great weekend of new sights and new relationships!
To top it off (no put intended here), John Micael took us on an uphill hike on his in-law's property. It was quite vigorous, OR I'm quite out of shape! However, when we reached the pinnacle it was well worth every upward step. From this vantage point, the view of Spearfish was spectacular: the Black Hills were in the distance, the green valleys lay beneath us, while blue skies and cotton clouds completed the work of art.
But what caught my immediate attention were the three dark wooden crosses that stood prominently at the crest of the hill. I loved to see them there, making a strong statement without words. I asked John Michael to take a picture of Mac and me in front of it, simply because it was something I wanted to remember from our trip out west.
It wasn't until the next morning in my quiet time, when I was sketching the hearts-and-the-cross-picture that I realized that my "journal art" had become reality. God is so sweet like that. I never want to miss his intentional intimate gifts he designs just for me! (He does this for ALL his children! We just have to open our eyes.)
After making this journal/reality connection, I went one step further, which is the TRUE reason God allowed me to live out my paper-sketch:
I believe with all my heart, that God will answer the prayers that I lift up for our marriage as I draw the simple picture.
I'm mainly posting this "evidence of God at work" to encourage you, wives, to pray for your husbands, and to love them with the unshakeable love of Christ. It's vital to him, to you, and to your marriage, no matter if you're six months in or 31 years like Mac and me.
Today, Mac and I are in a new place, literally. He's had a job transition, coming out of 27 years of doing the same thing at the same office. My prayers for him and my love towards him are a key factor in this faith-filled change. I have recently added to my prayers for us: Lord, show us where to live, give, work, and play.
Remember being a wife is a divine gift. Culture may shout to you that it's not; that it's a burden even, and a second rate role. But think about it, what a powerful privilege to be someone's "wind beneath their wings". Embrace your call and pray your man into the Lord's heights, which is way higher and far greater than any position this fleeting world can give.
You may not need to draw a journal picture right now, but maybe take a minute to pray the prayer above for your marriage. And in time, with a surrendered heart, watch your prayers become reality.
He is risen! We are called to "out of the tomb" living. What does this look like for the follower of Christ?
On Easter Sunday morning, we as believers celebrated THE monumental day of our Christian faith. We woke up with joy, we sang songs of praise, we ate great food, we fellowshipped, we acknowledged our Savior to each other, and we felt hope in our unified proclamation.
And then... we went back to sleep.
On Monday morning as I rolled sleepily out of bed to start another week, I had this quiet thought concerning our day-before-festivities, "What does it mean to live 'out of the tomb'?"
For one, it means we can walk (and even run!) freely in Christ because of His amazing grace.
Let's recall the simplicity of the gospel: Jesus died for us, was buried for us, and rose again for us. He took our sins on his body, was buried with these sins, and then wonder-fully left these sins behind. He himself said, "it is finished!"
Why then do we keep some of sin's grave clothes wrapped around us as we "exit the tomb" with our Savior? Some entangling strips come to mind: unfounded fear, unnecessary worry, stiff-necked pride, wavering doubt, tight-fisted control, spit-fire words, bitter jealousy, unloving spirit, insatiable lust, meddlesome gossip. Yuck. Are any of these attitudes still wrapped around your shoulders like a stinky burial cloth? These things were meant to be left behind. The gift of freedom is for all; however, it's a one-time choice (salvation), but also a daily practice (sanctification) to believe and receive his offer.
Today, ask yourself, "What do I need to leave 'in the tomb'?''
Take the stench off. Fold it up and put it away forever. Of course, we cannot be sinless, and of course we will always struggle, but it's time to grow more aware and be more desirous of the glory-filled person Jesus longs for us to be.
He lives... in you!
He lives in you... out of the tomb!
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
I was talking to a young friend of mine about our common struggle; it's called the "fear factor." Sometimes this unchecked emotion can be immobilizing, or it can even make you run in the opposite direction from where you know you are supposed to be headed. As we were discussing some of life's overwhelming decisions that certainly do come down our paths, I told her that I've learned, especially in difficult, doubting, or daunting times, to live by these two words: in Christ. The simple whisper to my soul of the words "in Christ" motivates me to take the next step, to say the next word, to write the next post, to move the next mountain.
As believers, we all struggle with something, but we don't have to be overcome by it, losing our true selves in the fight. Let's remember just who it is that abides in us! When we do, everything can change:
In Christ, fear changes to confidence.
In Christ, confusion changes to peace.
In Christ, doubt changes to faith.
In Christ, no self worth changes to full purpose.
In Christ, weakness changes to strength.
In Christ, selfish living changes to selfless giving.
In Christ, discouragement changes to hope.
I could go on and on. When each of these fleshly tendencies mentioned above are invaded by the life of Christ, his powerful glory fills our weak flesh. Your drab mindset and gray heartbeat change to a radiance that doesn't belong to you, yet is graciously given to you... in abundance.
In Christ we become fully alive!
What about you? What unchecked emotion needs to be swallowed up in Christ? Let his Spirit overcome your fear, your dismay, your confusion, your self worth...
Faith first; your feelings will follow. Keep stepping forward in Christ.
The truth is, when you live by these two words, not only will you benefit from this choice-change, others will want what you have; they will desire ...Christ in them.
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. 2 Corinthians 4:7
Do you want to pray more, but just need some guidance in learning how? Forty Day Journey of Prayer can help assist you. "Pray like Hannah" is a sample page from this devotional.
Do you want to enrich your prayer life but just need some guidance to do so? I have written a devotional called Forty Day Journey of Prayer to help. Each day is meant to both encourage you in God's word and also reveal God's heart concerning his desire to hear your unique voice. Below is a sample day from the devotional in which we see Hannah pouring her soul out to the Lord...
As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk…But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” 1 Samuel 1:13-15
For the full story, please read 1 Samuel 1:1-20.
The story of Hannah is most likely a familiar one to all of us. She was married to Elkanah, but was unable to bear children. She longed for a baby, and waited and waited for one to come, but to no avail. So, she prayed.
Was this fervent praying that we read about in the above passage the first time Hannah had prayed over her heart’s desire? No, I don’t believe it was. Scripture says that year after year she was provoked by Peninnah, who was Elkanah’s second wife. (Imagine that situation!). This woman was able to bear children, and taunted Hannah tirelessly. Hannah had lived in this distressing environment fora long, long time. I would bet that all that time, she prayed fervently for a child.
After reading and thinking about this passage, pondering what to write, I heard the gentle whisper, Pray like Hannah. I thought of that simple sentence and realized just how powerful it was. Let’s look and visualize how she prayed:
She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. (1 Samuel 1:10)
She was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving… (1 Samuel 1:13).
(Hannah said), “I have poured out my soul before the Lord.” (1 Samuel 1:15)
What if we all prayed like Hannah? Can we? One thing it requires is time. Hannah went up to the house of the Lord (v. 7). We too must make a deliberate choice to set aside time and go to the Lord. Also, Hannah was vulnerable. She wept before the Lord, pouring out her distress and her desire. She was so involved in her praying, she forgot everything around her. Unashamed and unhindered, she prayed.
This morning, once again, I felt the gentle nudging, pray like Hannah. In the quiet darkness, I stood up--not sure why; I just did. I recited my prayer list in my mind, but at the same time, I poured it out from my heart. I talked to theLord about all the things that I had committed to Him. I just kept talking with a small whisper. Lifting up my hands, I kept pouring it all out. The beautiful thing is, I know I was heard. Peace flooded in.
I cannot fully understand the mystery of prayer, but I can understand the command to doit. I will never be able to explain the reason for the “no’s”, the “wait’s”, or the “yes’s”, but I can trust His sovereign plan to answer in His right way, and in His right time. For Hannah, after years of a seeming “no”, the cry of her heart became a “yes”. Let this encourage you.
In your journal write down the name Sovereign Lord, and then write your prayer list underneath. Today, find some time and space to pray like Hannah. Take your list before the One who hears and honors your heartfelt, soul-bearing cries. Don’t give up. If He commands us to pray, there is a reason for it.
For further reading and journaling write down any words that encourage you: Exodus2:23-25; Psalm 142:1-2
ThankYou for listening to us! Hear our cries, O Lord. We lift up all our requests toYou in earnest knowing that we have been heard. We trust You to work. We thankYou for Your peace. Amen
My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Hosea 4:11
Dear Lord, The more we know you the stronger we become in you. Give us a heart's desire to read your word so that you can enlighten us into all of who you are as we walk out our days. For your word brings LIFE. Help us to know it, believe it, and live by it. Amen.