My desire is to spend time in God’s Word every single day. To miss time would be like not hearing from my closest companion, one I am used to conversing with daily. To stay in bed would be nice, but what would be missed is not worth extra sleep. So each morning I get up and have uninterrupted time with the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is a discipline to an extent, but it is so much more. It is life to me. What the Lord reveals, how He answers my questions, hears my prayers, lavishes love in extravagant ways by the way He directs me to specific scriptures and brings peace obtained no other way, is a glimpse into my mornings. He fills my heart up to overflowing and I spend the rest of the day pouring that love out. I mess up plenty, repent, apologize, accept grace and remember what He has taught me and how much He loves me.

IMG_1707Because of the time spent and the heart work that is done, it creates a bit of a challenge. Some mornings I attend Bible studies and when questions begin to be asked, it takes some self-control not to spill out all the morning has held. There are plenty of things that are just between the Lord and I, but insights gained often need to be shared. This has helped change the way I see people and how I interact. Again, I fail plenty, but my eyes are different now. My heart breaks easier because of the lies I see people believing and the truth that some in our world just cannot accept. I wonder why that is so hard?

Yesterday we were running errands and I had an unusual encounter with a salesperson. They had obviously believed something that was not true and dressed accordingly. I was startled at first, but then quickly sad. We talked about makeup and went our separate ways. What should I have said? What questions could I have asked to reach their heart? Throwing scripture would have only confirmed what they probably already believe about followers of Christ. What would have made them want peace, freedom and unconditional love only found in Christ? When we are insecure, live a lie and protect the lie at all costs, is there anything other than love that can break through fortified walls? It is not my job or right to condemn sin, that seat of judgment belongs to God alone. If only there was a way to speak this without defenses rising, but I think this has become a way of life for the broken.

The book of Lamentations is fascinating to me. Such heartache, hope and truth is found on each page. One verse really stuck out to me the other day. “She never considered her end.” (Lamentations 1:9). Our days are numbered, yet we so often live like we have time in abundance. Moses wrote a prayer that says, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). When we set heaven in our hearts as our eternity, we have considered and determined our end if we have confessed and believed Jesus to be our Savior. How many people do we encounter each and everyday who do not have this assurance? What are we doing about it? What am I going to do about the person I encountered? Are they not worth knowing the truth too? It is not reserved for just a few of us.

Look with me at this convicting verse. “For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life…”. (John 6:40). I do not see anyone omitted from this bold statement, but simply everyone. Also read this one, “As scripture says, ‘Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 10:11). Again we read there are no exclusions, but anyone can believe. Do not miss the next words. Shame is no longer an option for the believer. It is my understanding that satan holds many captive in prisons of shame. What is keeping you from breaking out? The lock opens at the name of Jesus my friend. What Jesus did for you on the cross made this freedom possible. Using my imagination, I see the key to the lock in the shape of the cross. Place this key in the hand of any prisoner and with faith, unlock your cell.

When our eternity is secure, our in-between can be lived with an unexplainable love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and love. Others will take notice and ask why we are different. We make quite a contrast in dark places. I use to fear my kids being in public school big time. We have all heard what is being taught and the activities that come with abandoning truth. However, it is in these dark places that light shines. I will say some of my kids have unbelievable teachers that know and love the Lord. Praise God! For those that do not, I pray they see a difference in the way our children behave. I pray they see a light in their eyes, even on hard days. I pray they feel loved and accepted. This is a great training ground, but makes for much work on our side. Again, praise God! The last time I checked scripture, this was the design from the beginning. What a privilege! When I pick the kids up I try and always ask, “How was your day?”. What I am asking is, “What did the world tell you today?”. We then sort through it all and replace lies with truth if needed.

So, consider your end and consider you present. Consider what the world has told you and hold it up to scripture. Does it match up? Popular belief can still be wrong. What are you doing to share truth, which is quite possibly the most loving thing you can do? Do people around you notice that you are different or do you blend in? Do you have something that others just cannot put their finger on that seems to be missing in their lives? This is not a call to be perfect, I am wanting us to pour out love because it has been given to us to share. We would not keep a cure for cancer in our journal and not share it with those dying would we? Then why do we keep the Good News to ourselves? Friend, do not be afraid. In fact, ask the Lord for help. Be encouraged by this, “You came near whenever I called you; you said, ‘Do not be afraid.” (Lamentations 3:57). He is near when we call and will give you words, eyes and a heart that cannot help but spread the only message that will matter in the end.

When my alarm goes off tomorrow morning, I will rise and grab a necessary cup of coffee. I then will settle into my chair and encounter love. It is the best way to start any day. I will remember these words too, “Because of the LORD’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Know the Truth

I read the most fascinating, convicting passage the other morning in scripture. It made me think again about the importance of knowing truth and speaking truth. Just because someone is educated or speaks eloquently, does not mean what is communicated is truth. The only way to really know is to check with the original source of all truth, God. What does His Word tell us regarding the facts and opinions we are flooded with daily? If what is being said does not line up with scripture, it simply is not true.

IMG_1463What I read is Matthew 28:11-15 and it answered some questions I have had as to why some jewish people are still waiting on the Messiah. Apparently, a group of soldiers reported to the chief priests that Jesus was not in the tomb. It had been sealed and guarded, but they found it empty. The priests, soldiers and elders came together to come up with a plan to explain the empty tomb. “They gave the soldiers a large sum of money and told them, ‘Say this, His disciples came during the night and stole Him while we were sleeping.” (Matthew 28:12-13). Money does funny things to people sometimes. I wonder how many people have not told the truth for money? Truth seems to be something that we think can be bought and sold for a price. Lying is hard at first, but with any sin, the more you do it the easier it gets.

If we back up just a bit, the chief priests and Pharisees had met with Pilate earlier. They reminded him, “that while this deceiver was still alive He said, ‘After three days I will rise again.” (Matthew 27:63). Fear of Jesus was evident to me here. You do not guard and seal up something if you are not afraid that what He said might actually happen. However, neither death, a stone, a seal or a guard of soldiers kept Jesus in the tomb. Make no mistake, God always does what He says He will do. He can not lie, but satan can do nothing but lie it seems.

This lie that was made up about the empty tomb over 2,000 years ago has done so much damage. The love of money over truth has led to people not knowing that Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day. It says, “So they took the money and did as they are instructed; and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.” (Matthew 28:15). Can you believe this? The belief in this lie has caused many to spend eternity in Hell. What sum of money could ever make this worth it? Now, do not think that all Jews are not Christians, this is not true. Many have believed the truth about Jesus and are saved.

So, what about you? As we move closer and closer to celebrating Good Friday, the death of Jesus and Easter, the day of Jesus resurrection, what do you believe? Have you gone the way of the soldier or the way of a believer? Like our son Eli has said many times, “It is a choice.” Friend, the price that was paid for you to be cleansed of all your sins and to spend eternity in Heaven has been paid. It is not hiding like an easter egg, but close as John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

If you need more, keep reading. “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:17). The question is, do you want to be saved? Saved from yourself, your past, hurts, fears, sin and death? The choice is up to you. Today could be your day and trust me, this upcoming weekend will be forever changed for you. You will finally know the truth about Easter and your eternity will be spent in the presence of our risen Savior.

“He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!” 

*This shell washed up on the beach with these words written on it.

Trees, Seeds and Dreams

A few weeks ago I purchased our first olive tree. It just seemed fitting with the name of this blog. I plan on buying more, one to represent each child. The thing is, I do not want to plant it here. This dream keeps coming to the surface and I want to save this tree to plant else where. So many obstacles in the way, but the last time I checked, that is a great place to see God show off. Want to hear about it? I assume you all said a collective “YES”!

IMG_1931Years ago a property caught my eye. We drive by it several times a day taking and picking up the kids from school. I wondered about who lived in the house and what animals they might have in the barn. I really wanted to get through the gate, knock on the door and just ask for a tour. Then one day a sign was posted outside the property advertising an estate sale. I would finally get my chance! The kids and I explored after school, but it was a bit of a let down. What looked so charming from the outside, was not carried inside. It was so outdated and the price was way too high. Projects do not scare us, but this would require so much on top of the cost of the home.

Then the day came when the property went off the market and I was a bit sad. I assumed it had sold and did not ask my husband to check on it. Time went by and another for sale sign appeared at this house. This time the price was lowered significantly and the owners had done lots of remodeling. I could not wait to take another look! It was beautiful and our kids loved playing in the wide open spaces. They ran, explored and were kids. We prayed as a family before we left and continue to pray. If this is for our good and God’s glory, we will be moving. If it is not, we will remain in our current wonderful home.

As I have asked God about what His plans are, much comes to mind. What would be perfect for our family and friends, would work wonderfully for others to come and enjoy. Ideas started flowing and they have not stopped. We could build a small cottage for families who have adopted or foster families who need a getaway. They could be cared for during their stay by our family who does love well. Missionaries who need a break could come and stay. We would serve big meals and pour out hospitality. Our kids could have the groups they are apart of at school and church come and play. People who are in need of restoration could come and find encouragement. Barn dances and meals could be had in a moments notice. Our doors would be open to whomever the Lord would bring our way. As a family, we would welcome them and give them a place at the table. Jesus would be spoken of often, it’s just who we are. Teaching, worship and prayer would happen anytime. In fact, worship really never has to end. Sounds a bit like the early church doesn’t it.

We continue to pray and ask the Lord for His will to be done and know it might not match up with our desire. We trust Him because our family has no doubt He loves us so. Our home, regardless of location, is a place where love is grown daily. Its roots are deep and our foundation is God. We take His Word as a letter of love, pure truth and desire to live out what He has written to us. It would be such a gift to share with others even more than we do now.

So, there it is friends. A bit of a dream that comes from my heart. Thank you for letting me share it with you. I have been just about ready to burst with excitement with the thought of this home where love would dwell. I have many verses marked in my Bible with this dream in mind. One is, “Build it up, build it up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle from my people’s way.” Isaiah 57:14. I pray these words back to the Lord since they were His to begin with.

I will leave you with a great quote from C.T. Studd that a friend shared on social media recently. “Only one life ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.”  So, “We have put our hope in the living God.” 1 Timothy 4:10. And while we wait, we will tend to our potted tree and the cute little seed growing in the window. Yes, love grows well in our family.


Worthy Work

One of the reasons I love God’s Word is because He knows how to say so much in so few words. Just one verse can have you thinking for days and can offer correction, insight, joy, peace, love and understanding. If you do not take time to read your Bible daily, start today. You will begin to look at it more and more for direction in every area of your life. I can never spend enough time in this book of truth.

IMG_1741This morning one of the places I spent sometime reading was Proverbs 31. I remember this particular chapter being a bit overwhelming and thinking this was a high standard for a woman that I could never be. It was yet another way I measured my worthiness to God and man. Satan whispers lies of defeat so often. We just need to be made aware of the truth so those lies can be thrown out immediately. For a girl who thought I had to earn love, worth and acceptance, satan did not have to try very hard to convince me of my defeat. However, I still tried to check these boxes of the perfect Proverbs 31 woman.

When behavior or actions is your worth measure and the heart is disregarded, you end up exhausted or wanting to just give up and rebel. Wonder why so many kids go that road? I might ask a few questions as to how they were raised, not casting blame, but in order to unravel their broken heart. Usually there is someone significant in their lives that created, intentionally or unintentionally, a deep heart wound. Having more of a dictatorship style of parenting would probably be great in military situations, but I have never met a child that this has lasting results. However, obedience comes easy when you love and trust the One asking you to follow.

It always goes back to the heart doesn’t it? Who does your heart listen too? Does it listen to the God of the Bible or do you have kind of a mask of sorts on the face of God? Friend, if you see anything other than the One, true God, ask Him to take that disguise off of your eyes so you can see Him. People, even ones who are doing their best, are not God. We need to see God as God. When you see Him for who He truly is, love, trust and obedience become incredibly easier. A child who knows their worth, acceptance and that they are unconditionally loved, is completely free from the chains of the “are you good enough prison” satan loves to hold people captive.

Because it is the hearts of our children, their freedom that is at stake here, this verse today really got my attention. The Message translation of the Bible phrases it this way, “She senses the worth of her work.” (Proverbs 31:18). With that before us, do you see your role as a mom as worthy work? I have said this before, I know I have been entrusted with much, not because of the number of children we have, but because a heart was placed in my hands. Meeting their physical needs is not that hard, tiring yes, but doable. Shaping their heart required me to deal with my own heart matters first. At times I kinda limped along, but I never gave up. I have no desire to distort the image of God in my children’s eyes because of my sin.

One of the best books on parenting that I have ever read, outside of the Bible, is Parenting, by Paul David Tripp. I have mentioned this before, but want to offer you help if this concept is new. One day I think writing a book about this heart shaping, worthy work that I have been entrusted with would be so much fun. It is one of my many dreams. I do not have all the answers and have failed much, but I do know the One who has never failed and has every answer because parenting was His idea.

Another verse I came across today reminded me again of my Heavenly Father’s invitation to me, His daughter. “Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:19). Because I know, not just believe, that I am the daughter of the Most High King, it is very natural for me to ask with boldness. I trust Him in the answer because it comes with a loving guarantee that it is for my good and His glory. Being a wife and mom gives me so many opportunities to be in need and I know where to go.

So, no matter where you are today, no matter how far you have run in the opposite direction and how far down you think you have fallen, there is a gift waiting just for you. This gift cost God His only Son. He died a death so violent and painful that we see clearly how horrendous our sin is. But the debt of our sin has been cancelled with the blood shed of Jesus and His resurrection.  All you have to do is believe, accept and have faith that what He says is true. It is like taking the best gift you can ever receive, unwrapping it and what you find inside is eternal life, love, forgiveness and help for today.

I will wrap this up with words from a beautiful song we sang in church today called Bigger Than I Thought by Passion. As we sang it, I glanced up at the cross in the stained glass window and knew how deeply loved I am. I was also reminded of the power of God and His ability to do the impossible. He is more than you can ever imagine. He is just waiting to be your Heavenly Father!

“You understand me

So I throw all my cares before you

my doubts and fears don’t scare you

You’re bigger than I thought you were

You’re bigger than I thought

So I stop all negotiations

With the God of all creation

You are bigger than I thought you were

I will rest in the Father’s hands

Leave the rest in the Father’s hands….” 

A Return

Today I stood at the graveside service of a dear friends mom. We were surrounded by her family and precious friends. Honestly, if I did not love this friend so much, I might have backed out. When her father died, just a few months ago, I did not go. I have not been to a funeral since my own mother’s service. Would grief crash me against the rocks again and would it be like starting over in the whole process? All I knew was my God is faithful and my friend needed me as I set out. Courage comes as you begin doing what you know to be right.

IMG_5203There were familiar things like most funerals, but there was also a peace that you could almost touch. The words spoken about this dear women were beautiful. The praise my friend and her sister received for how they served their mom and dad, were such a tribute to the God we know. They honored their parents in how they physically took care of them. What a privilege to return help when needed to the ones who raised you. Something seems to be planted in woman that drives them to take care of others. It baffles me when this is not the natural response.

I remember as my mom was dying, feeling so helpless. What could I do to care for her? To show her how much I loved her? I put together a care package and sent it to her. She was a great gift giver and always selected each item with such thoughtfulness. I tried to do the same for her. The last note I ever got from my mom was a beautiful thank you note for this box. What a treasure it is to me now.

My mom and I talked often by phone the months of her decline. Never really diving into big issues or questions I had, but just talking about the day. Looking back, I am actually glad we didn’t waste words on things that do not really matter now. So much time is wasted on the past, when it is the now we are living and have hope of a future. My questions and heart issues have been entrusted to the Lord.

I will give you a glimpse of what this entrusting has looked like for me. I do not know how the Lord might lead you. For me, I held all these broken pieces in my heart and I was a bit uncertain as to what to do. Then one day I knew. I took them all and let them fall on His feet. I was bent low for them to flow. I added my tears to the pieces and left them there because where else was I to go? He accepted my pieces, my tears and my heart lovingly. He then began to create in me a new heart. Within this new heart, He has had complete access to shape it and fill it as He sees fit. It is now filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness and faith. You might know them as the fruit of the Spirit. Also, repentance comes much quicker now. For that I am thankful.

With this new heart, I have also been given eyes to see differently.  I see people as made in the image of God and that we all have a great need to known and be loved. I recognize people who know grief, suffering and sorrow. They are easy to spot. I see people who are filled with joy that only comes from God. They make great friends. I pray differently and count it such a privilege to be asked to pray for others needs. To talk to God on another’s behalf, such a gift.

This journey has been just that, a long, slow process. When even more losses hit, I wondered if breathing counted as an act of worship. It seemed the only thing I was able to do. A little further down the road, I can actually say that I praise God for the treasures that have come from each heartache. Only God can take what looks hopeless and redeem it all with such amazing love. I will never be the same.

Today, as a bagpipe player played “Amazing Grace”, I looked up and beheld a display of such beauty. An enormous cross was in the sky right above us. Yes, He is a God of amazing grace and will not hesitate to show His children they are seen and loved, especially at the grave. There is no God like our God!

*Picture by Andrea Danley