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

Look at Me

I was standing in church the other day ready to sing.  As I was looking up to the stage,  all of the sudden I was overcome by seeing someone up there who wrecked me.  I don't even know her personally.  But I do know a bit of her story...and from what I know she is someone who has been through some tragedy and pain...and who God has redeemed and blessed and brought into a new and beautiful place.

I looked at her and almost instantly I felt emotion rising up in me.
Jealous of God's redemption in her life.

How ugly it feels to even type that.

The tears started coming.
I struggled to sing.
I stood there wrestling.  Wondering.  Longing.
Perhaps even a bit angry.

I felt "held out" on.
Left out.
Empty and void of blessing

...nowhere near truth.

But regardless, I was wrought.

And that's when I heard it.  In that wrestling match in my mind, I heard it.  The Lord broke through and it was so very clear and unmistakable.  I could not deny it.

"Look at me."

So Gently, So lovingly I heard Him say, "Look at me."
In my soul I felt...
"You are looking around - trying to make sense of your life from gazing at others.
This has never worked.  Your life only makes sense when you look at me."

I stood in that thought for a moment.  I shifted my eyes, my mind, and my heart.  The shifting brought me back to peace and to the lover of my soul who knows all things and who works all things for good.  And who IS love.

I am just like Peter on that boat in the sea of Galilee.  My gaze so easily moves to my surroundings.  It wonders to the wind and the the impossible the the void.  And in the middle of that disastrous mess the Lord says, "Fix your eyes on me."

I think of C.S. Lewis' book "The Horse and His Boy" where Aslan the Lion meets Shasta to tell him how he is at work in Shasta's life story...
Shasta, however,  shifts the conversation and asks about the life of his friend Aravis...and why Aslan had done something different in her life.  Aslan simply says, "I am telling you your story.....not hers."

God is telling us our story - as we walk - he is guiding, leading, directing, and our job is to abide. Focus our eyes.
Look at Jesus.
And feel all else slip into the distance.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Words and Blessings

There are some words that you never forget.  They are spoken once and they go somewhere deep deep inside where they become a part of the story of your life in an irreversible way.

I remember some such words from this story of my life, and this morning I was reminded of them.  I was reading Job while on my porch swing...and at the end, it speaks of God's ultimate blessing over his life - that after the sorrow and grief had overtaken him and he had walked a road of severe disastrous pain...that the Lord blessed him more in the later part of his life than in the former part - the part he had lost so tragically.

This passage always takes me back to sitting in the front row of Lifespring Christian Church during Jason's memorial service.  I was 27 - widowed, confused, overwhelmed, sad, exhausted, lost.  In the last few days I had been driven around by family and had made decisions that made no sense to me.  I had walked through coffins and was told to pick out one for my husband.  I had been taken to various grave plots and had to decide which one to bury him in.  I had looked through his clothing and had chosen out something for him to wear in the coffin....I had sat in a funeral home and had to ask everyone to leave so I could have one moment with my face in his shirt, breathing him in and crying my eyes out before I had to hand it over...

...choosing a coffin instead of a couch or a crib, picking a grave plot instead of a vacation destination.  It all made no sense to me.

Maybe this feels like to much to read.

But it is the real deal.  It is part of the story of who I am.

As I sat in the front row of that beautiful service to honor Jason's life... I will never ever forget the moment my dad spoke..and what he said to me.

He bravely got up in front of the crowd.

He told the story of Job in the Bible.

And when he got to the part where God blessed the latter part of Job's life more than the first, he looked right at me.  I vividly remember his eyes being red with tears as he basically said, "I believe that is what God will do for you."

I have never, ever forgotten those words.  Those words spoken with such love from my dad who loved me and hurt so much for me.

Those words spoken in Job about a heavenly father who holds a love for his creation that has a depth that no human can understand.

I think of those words dad spoke...and I choose to believe them.  Because I do know the love of my heavenly Father...I have experienced it time and time again.

Words and blessings.  They matter.