The Best Company

“Didn’t we throw three men, bound, into the fire? Yes, of course, your majesty, they replied to the king. He exclaimed, Look! I see four men, not tied, walking around in the fire unharmed; and the fourth looks like the son of the gods.” Daniel 3:24-25

I will never forget the day so much changed for our family. One email and we immediately felt like we had been thrown into the fiery furnace. The sad part was I was bound but unaware. Fast forward a few years down the road and on the same day, more heat was turned up, 7 times hotter. This time the Lord showed me what had me bound. He graciously freed me from those ties and I now walk in freedom, while in the midst of the fire. Like the three men who were thrown into the fire, they had no idea if God would save them and if He did, how long would the furnace time last. But their statement to the king gives me much needed strength, especially today. “If the God we serve exists, then He can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if He does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18). 

IMG_1993These men refused to bow and worship, as was commanded, to a gold statue. I may not have a “ninety feet high and nine feet wide” (vs. 1) statue, but I sure was giving my worship to created things. What consumed my thoughts became what I worshiped and I was soon bound. It is amazing how tight those ties can become. However, my time in the furnace has been heart opening. There has been much repentance, confession, conviction, heartbreak and weakness. There has also been the peace, love, joy and strength that comes in surrender with freedom at its heals.

There is this beautiful song called Another in Fire by Hillsong. I could have written every word. “All my debt left for dead beneath the waters. I am no longer a slave to my sin anymore. And should I fall in the space between, what remains of me and this reckoning, either way I wouldn’t bow to the things of this world, and I know I will never be alone.” Beautiful, isn’t? When we are made new by the acceptance of the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are no longer bound by sin. Do we still sin? Yes, we are not home yet. However, our sin has been paid for. Seems like I was determined to tie myself up when Jesus died to set me free. Fire quickly reduces, refines and burns that which does not look like Christ. Praise God!

So, even though there is no end in sight and no help to be found, we walk free in the fire. We are very aware that we are not alone. The song also has these encouraging words for us. “There’s a grace when the heart is under fire. Another way when the walls are closing in, and when I look at the space between where I used to be and this reckoning, I know I will never be alone. There was another in the fire, standing next to me. There was another in the waters, holding back the sea. And should I ever need reminding, of how I’ve been set free, there is a cross that bears the burden, where another died for me. There is another in the fire.” Goodness, how I need that grace today!

Some months ago a house down the street went up in flames. It was the biggest fire I have ever seen. We heard painters lit a cigarette while using varnish. The windows exploded and brick flew off. It was powerful. The house was completely destroyed, burnt to the ground. However, in the midst of the ashes, a glorious sight was caught by one of our neighbors. She took a photo of the only thing that remained, a metal cross. This was not a decoration, but must have been building materials. I keep this image in my mind and a prayer in my heart. When the day comes when we are taken out of the fire, may all that remain be Christ. Him and Him alone. What a glorious day that will be!

*Photo credit: Johanna Gabrielle Barron

Diving In

I read a great question this morning and it sank deep into my heart. The question was, “Did you learn to love”? I asked this first of myself and was reminded of one of my most favorite, life built on verses. “We love because He first loved us.” (John 4:19). Yes, I have learned to love. It has been costly and so often I have fought it, but I have learned to love. Ask yourself the same question and be honest with your answer. Does repentance, surrender, forgiveness, selfishness, bottom line – sin, need to be dealt with? It has been paid for on the cross, so why not acknowledge this ultimate sacrifice, the cost of love today? Brennan Manning puts it this way, “…the outstretched arms of Jesus exclude no one, neither the drunk in the doorway, the panhandler on the street, gays and lesbians in their isolation, the most selfish and ungrateful in their cocoons, the most unjust employers and the most overweening of snobs. The love of Christ embraces all without exception.” The thing is, when you know and believe you are loved, you live like it. The Bible is full of examples of people radically changed by this heart knowledge, sinners changed to saints.

IMG_4079.jpgBack to the original question. After I examined my own heart with this question, I soon turned towards our family. With our oldest diving into her senior year of high school, I had to ask myself if I have taught her to love? Has our home been a place where love is not only known, but shown in every word and action? Has she watched our example and  seen the reflection of Christ’s love for her? Do we make much of Him and His love or is self held high? Have our sins been confessed and have we turned towards love and lived differently? Has she witnessed two humble sinners, who are saved by grace because of our faith? I will say she has not seen this in me as often as I would like to claim. My early days of parenting, while covered in grace, reveal a very broken mom. I am so thankful that God loves me enough to have taken the time to unravel all that entangled me and now I can get back to His original design of love. I have said it before, but I have been reduced to love and I have never been more full. Praise God!

As our daughter plans on leaving for college this time next year, I do not worry about have I prepared her to live on her own. No, my concern is whether or not she has been taught to love. For love makes all the difference. Her roommate will get a front row seat to love or she will be hit with selfishness. My first roommate got that from me. I am sorry, Erin. Years later, after we were married and my husband became my “roommate”, he was the recipient of me not living loved. He now lives with someone who has been made new by love. I am sure he is happy about that, as are our children.

Everyone she comes in contact with now during her senior year and the years following, will know pretty quick if she has been taught to love. Her teachers know, her friends know, her youth leaders at church know, those she babysits for will know and her brothers and sisters will know. She has an amazing opportunity to be a wonderful example of love right here in our home. Will she take it? Based on what I have seen so far, the answer if a very loud YES! This child, while not perfect, lives loved everyday. Will this carry on as she journeys on next year? I pray it does and that she will know amazing grace when she forgets.

So, as we dive in to all this senior year holds, may I look for opportunities to remind this precious daughter of love. May she soak up all the love that is poured out each day. And when the time comes, may she give away that which has been lavished on her, not just by us, but extravagantly by her Heavenly Father. He is the source of love and His love never ends or even runs low. Let each of choose today to, “Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12).

Senior year here we come!


Whose Invited In

“We are the temple of the living God.”  2 Corinthians 6:16

Most days are pretty ordinary in our home. We each have our morning routines, break at noon for lunch, followed by an hour of quiet time/rest time, activities, chores, dinner, scripture reading, play and then bed. Then we get up and do it all over again. However, somedays have more added to them. Yesterday was one of those days. Our entire family climbed in the van and traveled to a college our oldest wanted to check out. Some of us went on the campus tour and some played at the park and got ice cream. We talked on the way home about what we liked and how it compared to other colleges we have seen. The distance of the school from home seemed to be the only thing we did not care for. There were long stretches of nothing and cell service went in and out. My husband was already thinking of ways for our daughter to be protected on the way home, mainly by him.

IMG_4083I love how he models the Father’s love by the way he is very intentional in how he protects our kids. It is not smothering or controlled by fear. Quite the contrary. We both know it is a privilege to protect the children we have been entrusted with. I do not want to be found asleep in this role and nor do I want to be fearful. It seems the enemy would love to keep us believing it is easier to do both. It only takes a few seconds for evil to enter our homes. We have learned this the hard way.

We have a great software on our devices that blocks access to all the web has to offer. Do you find it interesting that spiders also have webs and most of its victims do not realize they have been caught until they are trapped? Funny how similar the two can be. Recently, one of our kids downloaded a social media app that we had said no to. The whole point of taking pictures is to remember after the moment is gone. So why have an app where pictures disappear in 20 seconds? However, those 20 seconds can brand an image onto a mind. Now my child is stamped with images of the opposite sex that are far from appropriate. The boundary was in place, but the popular thing to do was more important and the protective line was crossed. While the images were not asked for, they were sent. My heart breaks for the ones that did the sending and for my child. Innocence seems to be erased with lighting speed in todays world. Only God can restore what has been stolen.

Because of this incident, it has caused us to reexamine the guards we have in place to make sure they are secure. It is exhausting at times, but souls are at stake here. Can I as a parent do anything less than fight? Talk to anyone whose life has been derailed by sin and I know they would have given anything for someone to love them enough to fight on their behalf. I am loved by the God of the universe, who is all powerful and He gives strategies, ideas and insight like you wouldn’t believe to fight for what is precious to Him. I ask and He directs. You would be surprised at what we have uncovered.

For example, so many kids have an XBox long before they have a cell phone. There is something called Microsoft Edge that is built into the gaming system. We had no idea about this feature. This gives kids direct access to the internet. While other devices have guards, this one is wide open but had not been activated by my kids. My husband typed in a few words to test it and nothing was off limits. He searched and found a way to set controls to stop the access to say porn and music with lyrics that will make you turn 10 shades of red.

Can I stop a minute and talk about music? With so much music and so many creative artists, why listen to words that are pure evil? I am not against any genre of music, but I am against disrespect and exploitation of woman, violence and cursing. Put those words into your thoughts and tell me they do not change you. It is popular because it gives an outlet for frustration, ignorance and hate. Keep promoting it, gathering listeners in and it becomes accepted because evil is now being celebrated by the masses. Such a waste of creativity! In my opinion, it sounds like death with the beat of hell drowning out all the true life God offers every human being. Why are we allowing this into our children’s ears, minds and hearts? Reminds me of this promise, “Blessings are on the head of the righteous, but violence covers the mouth of the wicked.” (Proverbs 10:6). Please consider what is thumping through kids AirPods and their consequences.

This I know because God’s Word is always true, we are His temple. What we allow in, we are allowing into the very place God dwells. This can be the worst decorating decision we could make. Think about it, would we plaster the inside of our sanctuary walls with these lyrics as wallpaper? Would we play these music videos on our big screens for all to watch? Back to the images that last for 20 seconds. Can you imagine a video with these disappearing images? It would be considered child pornography. Jail time is the punishment for those who partake.

So, what do we do as parents to protect our children who are the temple of God? We wake up and we stand up! Who has been entrusted with much here and who has the years of experience to look back and see that sin does not deliever what it promises? What gift are we giving them by allowing an open door to sin? I love my kids too much to skip out on the whole “train up a child in the way they should go”  and the promise that goes with it of, “even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). Oh, the way is narrow and very unpopular. Honestly, I gave up the popularity thing and what it costs a long time ago. I have more than today in mind with this temple training.

With our families desire to be the house all the kids friends want to be, this attack as I see it, does not surprise me. One more shot by the enemy and a black mark on my child for having a mom who exposed sin. I would do it again and will do it again. These temples are worth it because they are “fearfully and wonderfully made, marvelous are your works, and my soul knows very well.” (Psalm 139:14). That which is precious is worth protecting. It may mean protection on a highway or a device, but I trust the One who does the equipping. And like the days of old when the original temple was being built, God provided. “And now, I have sent a skillful man, endowed with understanding, Huram my master craftsman skilled… to accomplish any plan which may be given to him..” (2 Chronicles 2:13-14). He knows the understanding and the skills we need to raise our children in todays world. Let’s keep building temples who are glorious reflections of grace, mercy, life and love!!

*Image was taken at Abilene Christian University.

























I read something interesting this morning and the question went something like this, what would your life be entitled? For me, I think more in chapters and then pages, not always life as a whole to be captured in a title. This made me stop and think what that would be and also led to the reading of the book of Colossians. I think what I want my life to be known for and what often plays out, contradict one another. Do you have this same struggle?  Do you walk away replaying events or conversations and wish you could go back and clarify, add to or subtract words and actions? The continuous thought that seems to plague me is that I made much of self instead of Him. My hearts desire is to bring Him glory not me, but I often fail.

IMG_4026Another question presented itself in my reading. What gospel does your life preach? What I pray overshadows all my daily failings is this, “…He made you alive with Him and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14). Does my family see a mom who lives the gospel of freedom because I have been completely forgiven? Do they see a mom who is truly alive? One who knows that I am chosen, holy, dearly loved, compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient? I took this list from Colossians 3:12-14 by the way. On the flip side, what would the opposite look like? A few words come to mind like desperate for significance, worldly, lover of self, unkind, prideful, abrasive, impatient and lacking compassion. This sounds like pages taken straight out of my high school days. However, I now see words like FORGIVEN, GRACE and MERCY stamped in red across each and every page.

The only way to now live truly alive is by faith. I trust that what God has written about us is true. When I read, “For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ, and you have been filled by Him, who is the head over every ruler and authority.” (Colossians 2:9), I am reminded who and what live inside of me. Also, look at this verse, “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7). The very nature of God, made possible to us by Christ’s death and resurrection, is given to us and is called the Holy Spirit. It is this Spirit that is the source of our power. It is this power that brings us to life. Anything short of this is manmade and will not last. Trust me, I have tried.

If all of this seems like I am repeating myself, well I am. Just like I have to wake my kids up sometimes for school or church, I feel like many of us have been living kind of asleep. When we forget the power that lives inside of us and what was the cost, we begin to drift.   A long winters nap might work for a bear, but not for believers in Christ. We are ALIVE and have power because of who our God is and what He has entrusted to each of us. Does this not feel you with hope?

This might sound a little too fairytale like or impossible. Read with me this verse, “I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Mark 10:15). When I tell my children something or ask them to do something, they trust me. It may sound like I am asking them to do something hard or impossible. At times what I ask goes against what they want and we have a conflict. Other times I have to remind them of my love for them because they act like they have forgotten. Disobedience is such a red flag for forgetting you are loved. Sometimes we all need to be reminded.

Sometimes we need the reminder, “Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.” (Colossians 3:13). What makes this possible for me is by taking a look at the cross. I have been forgiven much because I am loved much. With this in mind we are reminded to, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” (Colossians 3:2). We are reminded that, “You serve the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:24). Knowing who we serve and where we focus our minds, we remind our hearts continually that, “…my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Now to our God and Father, be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:19). I am counting on His riches, not mine for this life and eternity.

May the living Christ, present in every believer, bring our God glory today as we live out a page or two of our book. This makes me think of my book title! I will entitle it simply Glory. That sounds just about perfect to me. 




Returning Comfort

He comforts us in any kind of affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

It has been a little over 8 years since my mom died. I remember all the comfort my relatives extended to our family. They too were hurting and in such sorrow, but they saw past themselves and came to comfort us. My dad would be at the hospital with my mom, so one aunt and uncle kept their dog. Another aunt and uncle did his laundry. Friends and family traveled a ton of miles to surround us with such love. Cards poured in with words of comfort. Dear friends brought over meals, called and texted often with comfort. Each was such a selfless act and even more appreciated as the years have gone by.

IMG_3991All this came to mind this morning while I was reading my New Morning Mercies devotional. Paul David Tripp wrote, “God puts you in hard moments when you cry out for his comfort so that your heart becomes tender to those near you who need the same comfort.” As a parent, nothing frustrates me more than when one of the kids does not go back and help a younger sibling. On the flip side, it brings me such joy when an older kid comes alongside a younger one to tell a bit of what to expect and how to navigate unknown circumstances or to offer help. It is fun to see their relationships become one more of building up than tearing down. I get a glimpse of maturity and security when they make this choice. I pray they never get so into themselves that they forget the grace they were given in their time of need.

When we are in a hard place, whether it is our fault or not, having someone beside us that has “been there” can make all the difference. If you are the “been there” one, in my opinion it can stir such gratitude in your heart to God. He was beside you during that hard time, carried you through and now sends you back to do the same. How amazing that He would use you and your suffering to not only bring Him glory, but to comfort one of His dearly loved children. Can you think of anyone who might need you now?

Tripp made several convicting points in my reading this morning. “Sometimes we are quicker to judge than to comfort.” I remember one lady telling me if my mom would have done… then she would have lived. That did nothing but stab my heart. I wish I would have responded, “The LORD gives, and the LORD takes away. Blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21) and sent her along the receiving line at my moms funeral. Only grace given by the Lord gives us eyes to see those who need true comfort that we have experienced. It may be possible that this woman did not know comfort yet. “When we have named ourselves as strong, wise, capable, mature, and righteous, we tend to look down on those who have not achieved what we think we have. So God humbles us. He puts us in situations where our weakness, foolishness, and immaturity are exposed.” (Paul David Tripp). I know the valley of humiliation and I am thankful for the lessons it has seared on my heart. Judgement is not my job as I once thought it was. Praise God!

Sometimes I wonder if we were more open with our struggles and louder about how God gave us grace and comfort, maybe people would come to us more. If we are seen as perfect and having it all together, we may be viewed as unapproachable. It is those who are honest, loving and humble that make wonderful comforters. If our stories were known more in our churches, maybe when another has heartache, they will know whom to ask to come alongside them. Maybe we need lists of emergency contacts printed in our church directories for times when comfort is needed. What would be beside your name?

The other night at dinner with friends, I heard my husband offer help to another person who is struggling in ministry. My husband has been there and would have welcomed someones help. I love that about him. He is a wonderful comforter, encourager and friend. He does not pretend to have all the answers, but is quick to recognize need. In his quiet way, he either takes care of the problem or walks side by side on the journey. I have watched him do this with our kids, with me and with friends. How wasted our lives can be if we are not meeting needs of others with what the Lord has given us. May we never waste an opportunity to go back and comfort, to meet a need, offer a word of encouragement, pray and sometimes just sit quietly beside someone. Seems just the thing Jesus was found doing when He walked this earth. Should we not be doing the same? May we each spend today with eyes and hearts on Jesus who is an incredible example.

P.S. Happy Birthday Damon! You are one of a kind and our family is so thankful for you!!

Pass it Down

We did this skit in Young Life a number of times and I think it was called “Pass it Down”. It was funny and seemed to never get old. A couple is on a date and end up not sitting beside each other in the movie theater. The guy starts passing down popcorn, a drink, candy and evidentially a kiss through other people to his date. It does not end well for the guy. The problem was they had too many people between them. Somethings can get lost that way. This was not only true in this made up skit, it is true in so many things. The Word of God can get watered down and becomes not even close to the truth. The original design is always best and it is important for us to stay close to the Source by reading the Bible for ourselves.

IMG_3956I think of the original design God had for man and the relationship He planned. A look at Genesis gives us a glimpse of the close fellowship Adam and Eve had with God and the first reaction of sin. “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and they hid from the LORD God  among the trees of the garden. So the LORD God called out to the man and said to him, ‘Where are you?” (Genesis 2:8-9). Knowing what we know about God, no amount of trees can hide us. In fact, it was a tree, fashioned into a cross, that held the body of His one and only Son to pay for all sin, hidden and known. So, hiding does not work and it is now possible to be back in right relationship with God. Amazing, isn’t? Now this is good news worth passing down!

With this relationship made possible by the good news, and the love, freedom and joy that comes with it, incredible legacies are passed down. Can I tell you about one? Years ago a couple were entrusted with a family. The only son in this family has now grown up and runs the camp that our daughter went too. From all the reports we hear, wonderful things are happening at this property. Because of the leadership that has his foundation securely built on Christ, lives are impacted. Staff, volunteer leaders, campers and adult guest experience the fruit only God can produce. “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5). One generation, close to the Vine, passes much to the next and what an impact for the Kingdom this family has made.

Our family has been blessed immeasurably by the parents that raised this man, so they did not just stop with their own kids. We are so thankful! Our lives intersected and we have stayed connected. I hear about their kids and grandkids and the compassion, unconditional love and encouragement they continue to pour out. In fact, the dad and son talk daily. They stay connected across the many miles that separate them. What a gift and one we plan on putting into place as our kids move from home. Relationship matters and can be such a reflection of our Heavenly Fathers love. With the pressure that must come from running a camp, how the load must lift when they talk. I hope you have someone in your life that does this for you.

So today, what are you passing down? Will it matter not just for today, but for eternity? I ask myself the same thing, of course. Will my words build up or tear down? Will I come alongside and encourage with truth or place more burdens on my family? Maybe you do not have a family at home, but you do see people. What are you passing down to them? A smile and kind word can sure go far. I know, I have been the recipient of many words and smiles. The Lord knows exactly when I need them and what a difference they make. I know I have typed out this message before, but it bears repeating. Time keeps on moving forward and what you pass down can have an incredible ripple effect.

*Picture of Damon and Maggie 17 years ago. I love that he is wearing a camp t-shirt from the very place she just returned from. God is faithful and this dad is passing down quite a legacy to our family.

Outstretched Arms

“Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.”   Ephesians 5:1

Moments ago a sleepy five year old little girl stumbled into the kitchen and immediately stretched out her arms to me. She didn’t say anything, just wanted to be picked up and held. She wrapped her skinny little arms and legs around me and laid her head on my shoulder. A few minutes passed by and she began to ask questions about the day. She told me what she wanted and we talked about it. Her requests are not that big, but I am glad she asks. Today it was for sidewalk chalk to add to our driveway masterpieces. She has a love for art and I want to fan this into flame by encouraging her to create.

IMG_1881You know, one of my most favorite things to do is pick her up and I know those days are quickly flying by. Our other kids have gotten too big to be picked up and some tower over me. However, their need to be picked up emotionally, held physically or helped spiritually never seems to go away. I do not think it ever does even as an adult. With this parenting gift we have the opportunity to model daily our love for them and our love for our Heavenly Father. It is His love for us and in us that should overflow to them.

This glimpse into our home reminded me of my times in the morning. With coffee in hand, I carefully fall into my favorite chair and what feels like my Heavenly Father’s arms. I wrap my arms around His word and lay my head on His truth. I tell him my needs, fears, joys and tell Him of the many things I find praiseworthy. He listens and responds by directing me to specific scriptures. When I need discipline, He lovingly guides my heart by not allowing me to be at peace and I feel restless until I come to Him. I confess and turn from my sin because in turning I turn back into His arms. Sin keeps me away from Him. Sin keeps me angry, fearful, bitter, unforgiving and judgmental. All are smoke to distract from the real heart issue. One breath of His Holy Spirit and the distraction clears. Truth is made clear, I repent and we move on, relationship restored. I am already forgiven, but in need of more grace and mercy.

I do not know what you are reaching for today, but may I encourage you to reach for Him. He has not left you. You were created in His image and belong. I know I talk of this often, but I just do not think it can ever be said too much. We all need the reminder. So, I pray you walk through this day, wrapped tight in dependence and your heart at rest in His love. It is your choice to whom your hand holds.

*Picture from 2013

You are Mine

“I have been crucified with Christ; 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 for me.” Galatians 2:20

It has been exactly twenty one years today since my husband and I went on our very first date. We met at a Young Life camp where we were both working one summer. We ate at my favorite pizza place, saw a movie and then got back to camp just in time to join in all the fun activities. It did not feel like a first date because we had common ground. We both were Christians and loved the ministry of Young Life. Over the course of the day, we found out that we had more in common. Getting to know each other became a priority over the next few weeks. I still had another month to work at camp and he returned to Texas to work for the local chapter of Young Life. Distance wasn’t that big of a deal, we kept in touch and continued to get to know each other through letters and long phone calls.

IMG_3403I was a recent college graduate and had not secured a job after camp was over. During one of our conversations, he told me that there was an opening in his town with this ministry. Only the Lord could have orchestrated the events that followed that placed us in the same city. It was exciting at first moving from North Carolina to Texas. The leaving behind of wonderful friends and family and moving was hard. The new quickly wore off and the reality of living alone for the first time ever was even harder. However, over time I found a place to belong, made friends to serve alongside. Then we got engaged and months later we were married on a beautiful fall day. It has been almost twenty years and seven kids later, but we are still dating each other and learn new things about each other all the time.

I had no idea what God had in store for us back then. My dreams of marriage and family pale in comparison to what our life has actually been. It has been difficult at times, but fuller than I could have ever imagined. We made a promise to each other, with God and to our friends and family that we would remain faithful to one another. We belong to each other and it is the Lord that keeps us bound tightly. I have wondered how in the world those who do not know and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit and love of Jesus survive in marriage. He put us together and we intend to stay that way. It takes remembering who we belong too, what is inside of us and who we now are in Christ to daily love well in marriage. We live out of this love inside, not from a place of what was in our old selves before we accepted the offer of a relationship with Jesus. For me, my old  nature of selfishness, pride and anger can raise it’s ugly head at times. For that there is grace and forgiveness.

You know, I have thought that my time was wasted when I dated other guys during high school and college. However, the truth is that it made meeting my husband that much better. I had no idea how unselfish, kind, honest, honorable and fun a young man could be. While not perfect, he is perfect for me and loves well. Out of all the girls in the world, he chose me. For that I am so thankful and I would choose him again and again.

This past week, with our oldest off at camp and returning today, we have talked often about our Young Life days. It is fun to remember and be grateful. She came home tired, but full of life. I will say she had a hard experience last year at camp, but Young Life was totally redeemed this week. We are actually very thankful for last years experience because it made this week that much better and she appreciated it that much more. Having a place to belong makes all the difference. She actually did have the best week of her life…so far. We have spent the day hearing highlights and fun stories. She came home a bit more confident than when she stepped on the bus. I am reminded of the rainbow that day and can say again, “…the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

The biggest take away for her from this week made my heart smile. To send a child that is already in love with the Lord to more of an outreach camp, I had to wonder what she would gain. There were lots of hopes and prayers for this week and I knew God would pursue her. What she told us that meant the most came from the talented music guy working at camp this month. He just happened to be at camp with us when Maggie wasn’t even a year old. I love that! Fast forward 16 years, and she is now sitting in the audience. He is a faithful God! He said, “God said you are Mine”. It was such a powerful reminder to her that she is chosen and made new. He died for her and she is dead to sin and has Christ living inside of her. She belongs to the family of God.

And just like in a marriage covenant, we are in a covenant of belonging to God. It is not always easy, but when we remember who lives inside of us, we have faith to press on. The knowledge of love our heart and mind is almost too much. How can we not do anything but respond with our lives? It is quite a romance. And just like my husband and I when we were getting to know each other, we spent time together, read each others letters and talked often. The same is available to us as we fall in love and remain in love with God. He is just waiting to say the same to you, “You are mine.”

*I woke up with Galatians 2:20 in my head and was excited to hear one of our pastors teach on this verse this morning.


An Open Door

“A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a difficult time.”          Proverbs 17:17

With our oldest away at camp this week and so many memories flooding back, it has got me thinking about teenagers. So much has changed since I was their age, thankfully I have too. Technology and what it enables us to do is incredible. Information is a touch away and we can hold in our hand a phone that contains it all. We have no need to ask a person questions or open a book because of this access. We can also use our phones to order our groceries and either have them brought to our doorstep or drive up to the store and have them loaded into our car. A storefront is hardly necessary really because we can order anything online and it arrive 24 hours later. This is very helpful, but it can also add another cause to our isolation. Why leave home if you do not have too?

IMG_3874What about social media? I know I am not fully aware of the different apps you can use and that is fine with me. It has been a lot of fun to reconnect or stay in touch with friends and family using social media. However, is this adding more unnecessary pressure to our kids? If it seems like “everyone” has plans or has been invited to a party, but your child hasn’t, how do they feel? Alone and insecure maybe. I remember being at a restaurant one night and we watched a group of high school girls take a ton of group pictures. The background was perfect and they were all dressed up. Picture after picture was taken and each time they gathered around the phone to critique the images. This went on forever. What I noticed was their faces were full of smiles and laughter when the pictures were being taken, but the minute the phone stopped, their faces fell flat again. There arms were thrown around one another in unity and then quickly separated. If you saw these posted on social media, you would think they were having a great time. I saw pressure, insecurity, doubt and joylessness. Oh, I have done the exact same thing as a much older girl, so their is no judgement here at all. This just gave me a glimpse into their world.

When kids go to a Young Life camp, their phones are taken up and then returned on the ride home. They spend an entire week unplugged, but they have “the best week of their life”. I wrote a bit about this last time, but I think they are really onto something. When kids are placed in a beautiful environment, fed great food, lavished on with extravagant love, live in a community and Jesus is the main focus, lives are changed. Should this not be happening in our homes too? While food and shelter are often in abundance, what about community and Jesus? While most of us do not have a ropes course or a mountain to climb in our backyards, we do have something to offer. We can open our homes, listen, ask questions, and encourage. As a mom it is always fun to get to know the kids friends. When I see them gathering on our back porch, I am thankful. I do not hover, but I do make time to talk while making a snack delivery.

It is not always convenient to have people over and I really like our family time. However, I am more and more convinced that our home could be the place to be. It isn’t the one I had my eye on with lots of land, but it has a front door that can be opened far more than it is. Why not have community more often and less time isolated behind our screens? What about more time living in reality and less virtual reality? What if the love of Jesus is not only talked about, but lived out around a table of teenagers? What if our homes were filled with the voices of praise instead of silence? I can almost hear it now!

This is the life that happens at camp and it is phenomenal to be apart of. I remember as a teenager, the days after coming home were hard because I missed my community and the life it gave. I think kids today are hungry for that life too. Our churches offer wonderful youth groups and fun activities, but could we do more on the other days of the week? What if our homes became more of a camp like experience and we were open to whomever the Lord brought through our door? It may be two or three or it might be more. Our homes become a place to belong, not just for our family, but for others too.

Research is showing a rise of suicide, mental illness, depression, drug use and the list could go on, among teenagers. I wonder if we put a graph of increase of technology along side these tragedies if we would see a correlation? I am pretty certain we would. I do not blame all our problems on technology, but this seems pretty obvious. Would community, worship and love change this reality? I think it is worth a shot. Let technology do what it will and social media be enjoyed, but we can set boundaries and not let them lead us into seclusion. (As I type this I am very aware that I will post this one social media;) We can be better friends who love at all times and siblings, either in Christ or related, that help each other.

We have some obstacles in our way and that is frustrating, but the Lord knows what we need to make this community idea happen. I truly believe this was His idea and it started before kids as a spark and was greatly fanned into flame when we had our eye on that other property. It is about to be bought by someone else, but I trust Him. In dreaming about that place, tons of ideas came and I would love to see them lived out here too. So, we will see what He has in mind and follow His lead. I will keep you posted on His work!

I can say this from experience, life is better with a community to share it with. Each week I gather with women and study God’s Word. We read, discuss, pray and at one study, sing together. I am so thankful for these groups. This takes planning and an importance placed on protecting this time. It quickly becomes a habit and one I love. By the way, if you need a place to belong and grow, let me know and I will save you a seat. I know this works and believe it can help with what our teenagers are desperate for. After all, we were created to live as the body of Christ. A body is not just a leg or a neck, but has many parts that come together to function and live. As Paul David Tripp said today in his devotional book, “Life in this fallen world is hard. That’s why you need a community of love.” Let’s show this world what a healthy body looks like and love well in communities that welcome like Jesus. We might be made up of senior citizens or we might be a mix with a variety of ages, but we will be loved.



“But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” Luke 15:32


On Saturday night, we put our oldest child on a bus bound for a Young Life camp in Colorado. She was a bit nervous and a very excited. Questions kept coming up, one circling the next, but being rooted in the main one. “Will I have a place to belong?” She isn’t the only one to ask this question. I could not answer that heart question untruthfully. I highly doubted she would be overlooked, but even if that happened, she is always in the presence of her Heavenly Father. She belongs, is loved and is secure. I pray she can rest in that and enjoy “the best of week of her life”. The other gift I had to offer her was that I had been a camper at this exact camp. Granted, that was a VERY long time ago. She called yesterday on a pay phone, since they do not have access to their phones – excellent idea that we should implement more. I am happy to report she is having a great time!

IMG_0274One of the things I loved about this camp experience was the over the top celebrating. It ranged from a huge square dance and pool party, to an abundance of food at every meal. There was also a fantastic concert by whatever talented artist was at camp that month. Music was heard often and you couldn’t help but dance. What made the celebrating that much sweeter was the place itself. Camp was designed to make much of God’s creation and eliminate the noise of busy and over stimulation of technology. Kids, leaders and workers live together in community, not isolation. The gospel is presented and lived out minute by minute. Everything is done with such excellence and points you back to the extravagant love of Christ. Real life, only found in Christ, is on display. Each activity, each meal, each message, all of it communicates to the camper that they are worth extravagant love. Excellence done with any other motive would be noticed immediately by a love depraved teenager.

Because it is in the mountains of Colorado, everyone can clearly witness what David writes in this verse, “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalms 19:1). One night in particular when I was a camper, the Lord put on a glorious starry night display! I had never seem a shooting star, but I did that night against a sky full of stars. And as a very love depraved 17 year old girl, who had been running for a long time, I was overwhelmed with such extravagant beauty. Truth of the gospel and the desire Christ had for me to stop running and return home to a relationship with Him, collided in my heart that night. I have never been the same since. Praise God!

You see, I was so much like the son who was lost because I too had left “home” in the prodigal son story found in Luke 15. I thought I could manage on my own and did not really need a relationship with my Heavenly Father. I had plenty and mentally sat God on a shelf, telling Him I would return when I was older. Little did my young self know that God is not shelf size, but He is patient. So while I ran and lived an empty life, He waited at home. I know His gaze saw all my wandering, but lovingly watched for my heart to return. One turn in the direction of home and my feet knew instinctively the way back. And boy did He come running and meet me on the road!

As a girl my return speech sounded very similar to the prodigal son. “I’ll get up and go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no know longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.” (Luke 15:18-19). If my Heavenly Father would have met me that night and immediately put me to work, maybe to pay for my foolish living, I would not have felt loved at all. I would rather have felt tolerated and provided for out of obligation. The striving to be enough in my fathers eyes would have lasted a lifetime with that kind of welcome home. However, that is not what happened at all for me or for the son of this story. “But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20). 

You know what happened next in this homecoming? Well, the son spilled out his rehearsed speech, but the father did not even acknowledge it. “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found! So they began to celebrate.” (Luke 15:22-24). And just like that kid, I was restored and welcomed back home too.

Now I can not say that everyday since has been a celebration. No, there has been plenty of foolishness on my part. I have needed to be reminded again to, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with festive robes.” (Zechariah 3:4).  There have been times of starving instead of feasting on the Word of God. There have been times of worry and fear instead of remembering who my Heavenly Father is and how He is faithful. I need to remind my heart that He loves me and knows what my needs are and how to best meet them for His glory and my good. One glance down at my left hand should be enough to spark the memory of the ring of a covenant Him and I share. I belong to Him and He belongs to me.

And just like the good Father that He is, as we put our daughter on the bus, we witnessed a stunning double rainbow. “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” (Genesis 9:13). Regardless of the message the rainbow is representing today, this was the original purpose. So, to me the rainbow was just the kindness of the Lord to remember and He brought this verse to mind, “Know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who keeps His gracious covenant loyalty for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His command.” Deuteronomy 7:9. God ran to meet me that night at camp and I was finally home. My daughter is now experiencing this beautiful place, but as a child who knows home already. She will join in the celebration of many who are just hearing and meeting their Heavenly Father for the first time or with ones who are returning home. Now that is extravagant faithful, love and worthy of a celebration!!

And one more thing. I pray our homes become places of celebration. I ask of the Lord to make us parents with open arms, embracing our children in whatever shape they are in. Move our hearts towards our children and anyone needing to know the way Home. May we all love with extravagance as dearly loved children, who see others as worth loving. Open our eyes to see those who have returned, but might need a reminder of the robe of righteousness they now wear because of the cross. Bless us, Heavenly Father, with the best week of our lives here or in Colorado.

*Thank you Kim Rogers for the picture!!!!