Sunday, September 25, 2016

Suddenly Bold

I've been reading and listening to the story of Peter walking with Jesus on the water.  I've heard this story many times, but lately, one phrase has stuck out to me.

Peter, suddenly bold, ...

I've realized that many of the fears that threaten to take me down in life involve the fear that at some point in the future, I won't have enough.  It's not about this day.  It's about what's in front of me.  And for me, it's almost always about not having enough of what I need to make a decision that I'll need to make...whatever that decision might be.
I fear having a scarcity of resolve, direction, peace, knowledge, trust.  I'm scared that I'll be looming out there needing to make a choice and I won't have what it takes...or that I WILL make a decision....and it'll be the wrong one....and I'll live the rest of my life in utter regret over my dreadful decisions. Wow. So crazy.

I was talking with a friend who is currently not with her children because she's in an addiction recovery program getting clean.  She confided in me that she fears she won't have what it takes to raise her kids when she gets them back.  She worries that she'll go back to heroin and won't be able to do it.

My response to her was that I believe she will have WHAT she needs WHEN she needs it.
And that is not today.

How easy it is to believe this for someone else...
I should speak those same words to myself.

Maybe that's why when I read the story of Peter, the words "suddenly bold" pop off the page to me. Peter may not have had boldness when Jesus was still up on the mountain praying.  He may not have had any idea that he was going to do something of courage - that he might get out of the boat in order to walk on water.
BUT...Peter did have what he needed to choose to walk on the water with Jesus, WHEN he needed it. When it was time to take courage and get out of that boat, he was overcome with boldness... suddenly.

And perhaps critical to the story is that Peter was already living a life of bravery and risk-taking before the storm where he chose to be brave once again.  He had already proven his ability to take risks by leaving his old life to follow Jesus.

May we believe the same will happen to us.  As we abide in Jesus, as we choose a similar lifestyle of living each day with courage in the exact places where we are...may we throw off any thoughts that we won't have what it takes at some point in the future.

Instead I choose to believe that because of Jesus, when the the time comes to be bold I will have what it takes to be bold. And you will too.

And then by his power...we will get out of the boat.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Tucker James

From a while back:

Springtime isn't the same without my sweet buddy.  

I've been going on morning walks in the park by my house these days, and it's just peaceful and glorious.  I sometimes imagine that I'm Ciara Knightly walking through the dewey grass in the English countryside towards Mr. Darcy... (gosh I love that movie)...
but then I remember I am wearing sweatpants, my hair is disastrous, and I haven't washed my face or brushed my teeth yet...and I realize it's not at all that glamorous...
...and I am not Ciara Knightly.
I am just walking - walking in the peaceful morning under the weeping cherry trees gathering my wits about me and praying to my God.

The other morning as I was hiking in the woods, my thoughts went to Tucker, my chocolate lab.  Oh how I miss that boy. He was with me through the great and the good and the bad and the sad - my sidekick and faithful companion.  I hiked with him, ran errands with him, snuggled with him, cried with him - I lived my life with this sweet boy of mine.  Right after Jason died, I remember getting beside him in the yard, petting him, and with tears saying, "It's just you and me now..."

And the reality of being single is that I have spent more time with Tucker than I have any one human on this planet these last 12 years.

That's a lot of time.

I miss having him greet me at the door.  I miss having him lick my leg, arm, face - those sweet Tucker kisses.  I miss throwing balls incessantly.  I miss watching him try to carry massive trees through the woods...watching him jump off docks...throwing sticks to him as he swims.  I miss seeing his face out of the window of the truck with his mouth, eyes, and ears flapping in the wind...excited for the destination and honestly just happy for being on the journey with me.  Years ago - during a season of anxiety when I didn't know which way was up, or down, or who I even was anymore, I remember clinging to him for dear life because I just needed something living to hang on to.
Tucker brought such peace, joy and laughter.

He was a fighter - not unlike me...and boy did he fight until the very end.  I continued to be shocked by how long he hung on...and a part of me thinks it was because he didn't want to leave me.  I became his caretaker - who he depended on for get up, to eat, to go outside.  It was long.  It was so hard.  It was utterly exhausting.  And I would do it ALL over again for my sweet boy...because I loved him that much.
I would lay on the floor with him, hugging him and crying - telling him it was ok to go...that I would be ok.  Oh the brutal end - it pains me to this day. There are no adequate words.

We had such great times - Tucker and me.

Run freely, my sweet boy.  Run up that hill with Jason.  Chase a ball and all the sticks your heart desires.

You were a sweet blessing from above and you made your mama's life so much better and happier.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The birds

Sometimes I can get so lost in my thoughts.  They meander around and around until I don't know which way is up and which way is down.  I must figure, decide, determine, know, understand, regard. It is exhausting.  It is life-sapping.  It diverts me from purpose, action, and movement....
...and it takes me from the now that is in front of me.

This morning was one of those mornings.  I sat mulling over thoughts and decisions and directions in life...and as I did I became more and more panicked and confused...and in that I realized something....

I don't want my thoughts.
I don't want my figurings...

I want HIS thoughts.

It says in Isaiah 55:8-9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."

His thoughts are higher.
His ways are higher.
So why in the world would I want my own?

From the couch on my back porch I watched the birds... flying and chirping, swooping and chasing each other...
and I remember my God's words in Matthew 6, "Look a the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?"

...and several verses later (vs. 34), "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own."

I especially like how that last section is worded in the Message, "Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don't get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.  God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."

The birds are giving their entire attention to what's going on right now, in this exact moment.

May I do the same - and live freely.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


I cannot escape the Lord's goodness.  No matter how bad my life seems or how blind I am to his blessings.  It is there and it chases me down....raining blessing over me again and again and again.


He is good.  He is. The longer I walk in this life of faith - the longer I follow Jesus - the more I see it. I'm certain it's been there all the time, but I notice it more now.  I see it clearly.  I recognize his good and I call it out - bringing it into the spoken world.
I tell others.  I beam about what He is doing.  I am annoying for sure as I can't stop telling of his blessings to me.

But I am only given my life, this life, and I must tell others of what He is doing.

It's how I combat the evil one.
It's how I tear down his lies to me - his ugly lies that says God is "holding out on me" or has "forgotten me".

I am not forgotten.

God is not holding out on me.

He is pouring his abundant blessings over in and day out.

And guess what?  You are not forgotten.  He's pouring his blessings over you too.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


I am Clay.

Clay does not mold itself.

Clay does not tell the Potter how to shape it.

Clay does not reshape itself into what it wants.

Clay doesn't even know what it should become.

What DOES clay do?  What is the role of the clay?

The purpose of clay is to submit.  The purpose of clay is to be soft, moldable, and easy to shape. THAT is it.

It's such a passive purpose.  And I am not prone to passivity.

What does this mean for my life?

I think it means that the main, best, and perhaps most fruit producing activity on my part is to surrender.  To cultivate humility.  To grow in deep, deep trust.  Trust that what the Potter wants to make from this lump that is my life is more beautiful than anything I can shape...and more purposeful in His kingdom than anything I could craft.
That HIS design for my life turns me into exactly who he wants me to be - the truest, most beautiful version of myself - all I am made, designed and purposed to be...

...and all from a love that is beyond anything I can imagine.  From the One who is the source of ALL love.  The very one who says he IS love.

And what do I have to do?

...simply lay down the tools.

                            “Yet you, Lord, are our Father.  We are the clay, you are the potter;
                                                                     we are all the work of your hand.”               - Isaiah 64:8

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Story and Resolve

On Wednesdays and Saturdays I walk/run with a group called Step Forward.  It's composed of the men and the women in City Gospel Mission's addiction recovery programs.  Volunteers walk and run with these brave men and women who are in recovery in order to encourage them as they train to participate in the Flying Pig race.  Tonight I was walking with my friend that we will call Stephanie, and while I was walking with her we were passed by another lady we'll call Sam.

Sam is mentally a bit off.   Sam mutters things sometimes and wonders around often looking a bit out of it.  She's hard to relate to for these reasons.  I messed up her name as she passed and Stephanie told me to not worry about it...that Sam had been talking to the voice in her head a lot today anyway. Then Stephanie continued with more of Sam's story....and what I heard broke my heart.

Sam has schizophrenia.
Sam was born in a mental institution.
And then following in her mother's footsteps, her own child was born in a mental institution.
...and then to top that off, a security guard was the father of Sam's child...a man who was literally being paid to protect her...
Sam combined crack with schizophrenia (which is a horrific combination according to Stephanie).

...And Sam is now wondering around in recovery.

After hearing these thoughts, I first thought of the horror of living with schizophrenia.  I absolutely cannot imagine.  Having dealt in the past with the hellishness of severe anxiety in my life, I just can't fathom how horrific each day might be in her own head.
Then my mind went to a picture of being born, of literally starting your life, in a place that was so sad, and broken, and cold, and one there celebrating with balloons or cake or presents....
The sheer contrast between her start in this broken world and my start in this broken world just wrecked me.  My parents held and comforted me and wanted me.  My parents took me home to a loving place with the intent to care and raise me in beauty and in strength...

How unfair.  How utterly, terribly unfair.

And I know better to play the unfair game.  When we start on the unfairness in this world we end up comparing apples, to oranges, to tangerines...there's no end to the philosophizing and there's no clear boundaries with the lines of unfair vs. fair.  But regardless, my heart drops with sorrow at the difference between our lives.

And truly if I believed this life was the end, I don't know if I'd be able to move forward and engage.

One of my first thoughts after learning of Sam's story, was of heaven.  I've often thought that one of the most beautiful things about heaven will be to see the people who in this world don't have much that is truly valued by the world....for those we might call the "least of these" here, to be able to soar in beauty
I long to see them free from chains, addictions, illnesses, wheelchairs and braces, limps, and bodies and minds that won't work right... see the fullness of the beautiful creations that God made them to be...To see them free from all the bondage they experience in this world.
Oh that freedom will be glorious - so utterly glorious.

My wrestling with unfairness ends in one spot.  It's true I cannot understand the unseen and the whys of it all...and I must leave that in the hands of an almighty, loving God.  But the thought that I come to in the end is this.

I've been given much.  So much.  In so many ways.
And God says that to those much has been given, much is required.

How dare I squander this life.
How dare I look at someone like Sam, and then go and squander what God has given me.

And the resolve is not out of dreaded obligation or duty.  It's just simply the only response.  The only response that makes any amount of sense is to wonder how can I make the world better for the Sam's of the world.
And then to do it.

Because I've been given gifts.
And you have too.
And it's an absolute honor to use them for others.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


From last month:

That's what I am today.
And since this is the last time I will be able to turn something that has a 3 at the beginning of it, I feel it's important enough to document the moment.

As I reflect over this last year, I am grateful.  It's been a beautiful year....with many happy moments.  I contrast it to a couple years ago when I was turning 37, my friend Sandra asked me at my birthday dinner what I was looking forward to in the coming year.  I looked at her with a blank stare.  I could think of nothing...
And so dear Sandra with her kind heart tried to help me think of something that might be good about the coming year...  Gosh I love her.

BUT this year, turning 39, I am not at all in that place....and I am grateful.  When I look at the coming year, I can think of several things I'm excited for.  I can think of paths that I'd like to take. Journeys I'd like to pursue.  Dreams I'd like to chase.  Places I'd like to see.  And I am hopeful.  Hopeful for what may be.

And honestly - with the passing of time I now tell myself that I'm either getting closer to seeing some dreams come true in this life or I'm getting closer to going home to be with Jesus....both are big huge wins.  I guess I'm just happy I'm moving forward in life and not going backward.  This is a good thing.

I was talking to my sister yesterday and reminiscing about something we did awhile back.  She realized it had been 10 years since the event and it seemed like so long ago to her...and not quite so long ago to me...
I looked at her life ...she's had 4 babies in those 10 years...and I basically said, "Well maybe it's because nothing has happened in my life in those 10 years."
And we laughed because the contrast in her life and mine these past 10 years couldn't be more diverse.  She's had these beautiful 4 babies come into our lives and change our family in such beautiful ways....
....and I'm still here.  Living in the same place and practically wearing the same clothes for pete's sake...And it seems like nothing has happened.

But I stop.
Because that is not actually true.
There are some AMAZING things that have happened these last 10 years of my life.

In the last 10 years...

I've traveled to Africa and seen the Rift Valley and been woken up by a donkey and met Beatrice and spoke to people in a church and a school and watched giraffes look both ways before crossing the highway
... and I've lived with a warthog for a couple of days on the Masa Mara Reserve.

I've had people with AIDS sing to welcome me and adorn me with a handmade necklace.  I watched a little boy orphaned because of his parents' death from the disease and I've been humbled and realized I am not as lost as I feel.

I've hiked in the rainforest of Tanzania and the desert and the moorland with 19 porters and guides.  I've gone 8 days without a shower and been surprised at how bad life smells when that happens.  I've sat on a chair in the nighttime of Africa on a mountain above the clouds and watched the sun set with my dear friend Stacy and a guy named Ed from Canada.
I've stood in the middle of the night under that same African sky and been taken aback by the beauty of the stars above me while everyone else was asleep.  I've been nauseous at 19,341 feet and I've summited Kilimanjaro.

I've rode in a rickshaw with Pastor Shinde and my friend Cindy to a slum in Mumbai and went to a school in another slum where I ate a vegetarian McDonalds "burger" with peas in the patty.  I stood before young girls who filed into a room - girls who've been rescued from brothels in India where they were raped night after night - and struggled to not break down and weep before them because of the horrors they have known...

I traveled to Equador and met Melanie - a girl I sponsored through Compassion International - humbled at how they saw me as family...and amazed by such beautiful work being done by this organization.
And coming home due to exhaustion and flight circumstances I had a near mental breakdown in the Miami airport and am pretty sure my name is on a wanted list there - I will pay extra money and take longer trips to avoid that airport the rest of my life...

I've seen the coast of Italy with the painted buildings of the picturesque town called Vernazza, and saw the Eiffel tower and rode on a train with my mom, and almost missed a train with my mom, and ate crepes in Paris and saw the Louvre and rode on a boat through this romantic city.

I body boarded on Napili Bay for hours with Lauren on Maui and drank Mai Tai's at the Luau on the beach and drove the road to Hana and saw these beautiful pools on the way there that are truly one of the most breathtaking sights I've even seen in my life.

Riding bikes in Nova Scotia on Prince Edward Island made me feel like Anne of Green Gables.  I nearly drove into a barn scaring my mom to high heavens and I "clinked" some of the best mussels (on the planet apparently) with my friend Kristie before swallowing them down whole.  I saw the most beautiful field of yellow flowers and watched a gal do an Irish Jig while I watched her wishing I could do the same.

And while I'm at it...I did take Irish Dance lessons for a bit in these last 10 years.

I visited the Monahans in Sicily with Mom, Sandra, and Matt and ate gelato and saw cathedrals, and realized I absolutely love gnocchi and pistachio.  I drank wine and ate sun-dried tomatoes while looking over a vineyard.  After missing our flight in Rome, mom and I did a whirlwind tour of that amazing city and walked it til our legs nearly fell off.

I've mixed concrete for Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans by hand in wheelbarrows in the July heat....and wondered why we didn't just pay a concrete mixer truck to come do it?

I've prayed with and tutored gals living in India over the internet who've been rescued from sex-trafficking - seeing their smiling faces and marveling at their excitement to spend time with me and thankful they are in a safe house.

I've been humbled, amazed and blown away by the stories of men and women who are recovering from addiction here in Cincinnati through City Gospel Mission.  I have been honored to be accepted and counted as friends by these brave souls who've given up nearly everything for the desire to be healed.

I hiked the Inca Trail with my friend Lindsey and ate meals in the mountains with my British teammates and marveled at how they held their silverware...and how it really made a lot of sense to do it that way.

I've laughed so hard with girlfriends under the twinkle lights in my backyard, I could scarcely bear it.

I've been a first hand witness to a miracle of God - seeing a sweet niece who wasn't expected to live, do just that.  She is beautiful beyond words. might not be babies...but I cannot say...absolutely cannot say...
that nothing has happened in my life in the last 10 years.

I guess what I'm saying is this...

There's more than one way for life to be beautiful....for me...AND for you.  What unexpected beauty have you known?  Acknowledge it.  Cherish it.  Live it.




Dead Woman's Pass - Inca Trail: Peru, South America