Sunday, January 31, 2016

31 Days, 500 Words

31 Days, 500 Words may not seem like much of an opener. But for me, it’s the opening of 15,500 words yet to be told…aching to be told…needing to be told.

So many days and nights I’ve longed for this moment, dreamed even. The moment to begin again. I’ve asked many times of God, when can I write? Most times the reply was, I never said you couldn’t. Or something like it.

It doesn’t matter if these words form a book, if they flow from one stream into another, or whether they connect one day of writing to another. It just matters that they are. That they simply are written.

Just today God said to me, it’s the discipline that’s needed. I prefer inspiration, to the point I avoid discipline. Yet the two can work together if I will allow the habit of writing daily to give room to the inspiration that is never far away.

But why did I ever stop in the first place? It wasn’t a conscious decision. I got stumped one night, unsure of my thoughts, untrusting of God’s leading. The subject matter that gripped my heart didn’t fit into the chronological story I had been telling. It fit in the story alright; it was painful and raw, it was the present, it was the “now.” I traded the keyboard and vulnerability of the moment for a hesitancy and a bed. I said goodnight on the story. Not ever dreaming so many months and years would pass before waking.

There’s no guilt here. Only grace. Grace deep and wide enough to get back up, to risk again. You see, a great fall caused a great hurt, and a lot of confusion. A piece of my heart was lost, broken off. Without it, I couldn’t find my voice, and all the words I could think of turned to chaos in my mind. I was told that wasn’t a bad thing, but over time I scarcely believed. Like most perfectionists, I placed too much pressure and heaped condemnation on myself. As if that ever helps.

That broken piece of my heart was found on a high ropes course 40 feet above the ground in the Colorado Rockies. I was attending a retreat centered around the healing of the heart, and the night before had been raw and hard as I wrestled out many previously avoided questions that had been suppressed during the few years of back to back tragedy and sufferings. God knows what his girl needs. I geared up, followed the bridge to the towering course surrounded by peaks of glory all around without so much as a worry or fear. I was excited for the fun of it.

Nodding at the instructions of the guide, I took off on part 1 of the course. Mind you, in my exuberance I had chosen the more difficult option. Yes, it was naïve. Once I felt the whole weight of it, too far forward on a shaky rope as thin as my pinky, fear gripped me. I held on for dear life, each step and reach of the hands a desperate plea not to fall. No way did I dare to choose the difficult option on either of the next 2 stages. After all I had just experienced, what crazy person would do such a thing?!

I played it safe. Stayed in control. As in control as a person could possibly be 40 feet up on a wire with planks too far apart and swinging boards from Hades. Life is like that sometimes. Hades. It sure does burn and makes a girl want to tuck her tail and hide.

But something happened high on the platform of the last portion of the course. I debated with the guide whether to take the easiest way or the really hard. As he unhooked my cable and safely clipped it to the easy, Wait! was the shout that rose up from somewhere deep down inside me. “Put me on the hard. If I’m going to do this, I’ve got to go all the way. I can't take the easy way out.” I could barely believe what I was saying, but I knew it was truth.

Taking every instruction given me, I stepped out onto a new hope, a deeper belief. It was hard. It was deliberate. One step and one yank of the cable at a time—the anchor above me. It was long. Yet even as the last guide, who was also the first to send me out, reached out his helping hand, I knew I had to decline. “No, I’ve got it. I’ve got to this.”

When the ending had come full circle to the beginning, a firm platform signaling the start and end of something greater and more real than even I had anticipated, I just needed to have a good cry. Not because I was weak, but because I had found strength again. I heard my Heavenly Daddy say, I’m so proud of you! You were made for this. You were made to risk again.

The rescued piece of my heart was brought back into the whole. To have been wounded and to get back up again is everything.

So here I am back at the beginning. It’s time to write again, however many days and keystrokes it takes. In the words of Bagger in The Legend of Bagger Vance, “Settle yourself…let’s go. Now is the time.”

(This is My 500 Words challenge, Day 1, found on It is my first published writing in nearly 4 years. My last 2 blog posts HERE and HERE give a snippet of the backstory that brought me to a season of hiding out in fear and other places. This post is also out of my comfort zone, because it's unedited...that's one of the rules for the 31 days. haha Ok, maybe I cheated just a little, I only added one word. Here's to writing!)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Launch Forward: the Background Story

The background to every story matters...
The road from yesterday directly connects our tomorrows.

For most of you, this picture I took of the majestic mountains of Colorado will be "pretty", "nice", maybe even stunning. But for me, it is a deep well of emotions as vivid memories--real as the keys I type upon--of the days spent there just before the accident flood my soul. Yes, these are memories etched deep into the fibers of my heart, not just my mind.

Tears caught me by surprise as I sat here staring at this scene earlier. Lots of them. Trying to find words that would accurately pen my heart and the heart of God's as they intertwined and danced upon the Colorado Rockies, unaware that days later a thief would cut in and attempt to steal me away. In this scene you can see it, as I stood safely atop one mountain peak, drinking in the beauty with each deep inhale of the soul. The distance warns of an encroaching storm with shadows engulfing mountains one at a time, and storm clouds swallowing blue skies. Jesus held me so close, I didn't even notice the hovering cloud in the upper corner about to cover me.

Let me explain.

I had the amazing experience of attending the Captivating Advanced retreat with John and Stasi Eldredge and their team of Ransomed Heart Ministries September 29th through October 2nd of last year (2011). It was during a previous Captivating retreat several years earlier that God confirmed he wanted me to minister in the same message (if you've been following the blog for a long time, you've probably read some of my story and previous experiences there.) Such deep healing and life-giving words from Jesus paved the way from that first trip in 2006 to this past Fall of 2011. My husband, Andy, and I had begun writing and speaking in 2010, and though I had felt more alive than ever before, we had suffered some blows in those first two years. I was desperately thirsty for deeper personal healing, as well as fresh affirmation and equipping for the ministry he'd given us.

My thirst was truly quenched, as Jesus did not disappoint!! I will share various specifics along the way in future posts as they relate. Little could I have known at the time, though, just how much his words to me, the beauty, and the rescue would continue to be so vital to my rescue me time and time again in the storm that engulfed me on October 8, 2011.

As mentioned in the previous post, so many crucial things happened in the moments before the ambulance arrived to take our precious Abby from the pecan orchard to the capable hands of a children's hospital not too far away. Though my eyes saw horror on her crushed face, when Drew pulled up beside us on the 4-wheeler, I steadied her in his big-brother arms and did the first thing that came to mind. All I knew to do was lay hands on her sweet head and pray, pleading for God's healing touch! Had not the experiences in Colorado been so fresh--fresh enough to still smell the aroma upon waking every morning--I don't think I would have had the same knee-jerk reaction.

Next, I frantically thought through scenarios of how I could attempt to get her to the hospital on my own. None of them would work with her fragile state.

A neighbor's voice from the last house before the orchard entrance broke my racing thoughts, "Do you need an ambulance?!" She had seen the kids riding and heard the screams from her bedroom window. I ran toward her and stopped mid-way. I couldn't answer clearly. Each word and footstep I stumbled over brought me closer to the reality that Abby needed help beyond what any of us or our local hospital could give her. She read through my lack of an answer and dialed 911.

Then a safe distance from Abby, who was no longer crying and clearly in shock, yet out of earshot, I called Andy who was at work. He knew we had gone riding, so I dove right in. My calm composure broke down at the sound of his voice, "Hey... Andy, Abby and Ashley had a's really bad, Andy...Abby's face is's really bad,'s really, really bad...a neighbor called an's really bad...I already know she's going to have to have surgery, it's so bad!" He immediately said he was on his way, a 30-minute drive that he made in less than 20 minutes! We quickly decided what to do with our other three kids (thankfully they are all teenagers and were able to get the un-wrecked ATV and the rest of our gear home), and hung up with desperate I-love-yous.

I took liberty of the moment out of earshot of the others. In tragedy, when suffering sneaks up on you like a thief in the night, our heart is the target and most vulnerable to attack. I began to heave out breathless words as my heart beat so hard, "Catch my heart Jesus! Jesus catch my heart!! Catch my heart Jesus!! Jesus catch my heart!!!"

Looking back, I see clearly how God was paving the road that would follow my return from the Captivating Advanced. The very last session on Sunday was with John, and he spoke on suffering. I had no idea then just how life-giving his words would be. I learned, as I said in the previous post, that the worst part of suffering is not the pain, but the damage it can do to our heart.

Remember John 10:10, our enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He hates God and would love nothing more than for us to hate him, too. He rushes into our pain with lies to get us to distrust God's heart. When a great suffering hits us out of no where and catches us off guard, we must cry to Jesus in that moment to catch our heart. "Catch my heart Jesus!"

Doing so while waiting for the ambulance to whisk my daughter away set the stage for God to intersect our world in tangible, unmistakable ways as we navigated through ominous skies of suffering for days, weeks, and months. I am thankful the background of this story's "yesterday" directly connected my heart (and my family's) to Jesus in the tomorrows that still continue to follow. Oh it's been messy, and certainly not easy, but catch us he has!

The invitation of Jesus is to cry to him when suffering snatches the rug from underneath your feet. His promise is that he will come running when we call. Psalm 18 speaks beautifully of this truth. "In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried to my God for help; he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry for help before him came into his ears...He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters...He rescued me because he delighted in me." (v. 6, 16, 19)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Launch Forward

Setbacks. Thin places. And torn veils.

All of these have interchangeably described the past five months of my family’s life.

A setback. (perhaps the greatest of our young family’s life)
A setback can be described as a “reversal.” You are moving forward, when something spins you around and takes you back a few steps before you can stop it.

In the beginning of October, 2011, Andy (my husband) and I seemed poised to leap ahead in one of the greatest adventures of our lives—fighting for the hearts of others through Rally Point. We had direction, confirmation, affirmation. Even preparation. Then the unthinkable happened.

Saturday, October 8, 2011, ushered in a lazy sun-shiny, crisp fall day. Lavishing in the final weekend of our Fall Break from school, I decided I better fulfill my promise to our youngest who had begged all week to go “4-wheeler riding”—a joy I and my kids grew up with. This would be our last chance before school resumed on Monday. Elated, the kids threw open the shed doors, gassed up, suited up, and had the two ATV’s parked out front and ready to go before I made it out the door!
Oct. 8, 2011
Earlier in 2011
Summer 2010
Overgrowth in the pecan orchard we usually romp and race through forced us deeper into unfamiliar territory. I rode alone for a bit to scope out the area. Handing over the larger ATV to my oldest, Drew, and one of our daughters, I waved the other two girls in on the smaller 4-wheeler and pointed out the safe perimeters to all of them for riding. When I finished the exchange with Drew and Emily, I turned around to realize Ashley and Abby were nowhere in sight. Drew drove off with Emily in search of them.

As they also disappeared into the orchard, I began to hear screams...

My heart stopped with my feet. Above the roar of 4-wheelers in the distance, I couldn’t discern if it was play or serious. The sounds stopped. I assumed they were playing and resumed walking to find a place where I could keep watch, thinking to myself, When they get up here I am going to tell them not to scream like that! It’s scaring me! And to stay where I can see them!

Sickening screams reached my ears again. Drew bolts back into eyesight driving full-speed towards me with panic on his face, and I see Emily racing into view on foot, screaming, “MAMA!!!” over and over in a frantic call no mother wants to hear. Picking up the pace in their direction, my heart sunk when Abby, just ten years old, appeared. From far away I could see the bloody mess from head to toe. Up close, her face didn’t even look normal it was so badly crushed in the center, severely affecting her nose and eyes and everything behind them.

Ashley and Abby had driven into another area of overgrowth in the unfamiliar territory, which completely concealed a deep, narrow, V-shaped ravine over six feet deep, slamming them unaware into the lower wall of it. Abby had taken the brunt of the force to her precious face.

So many crucial things happened in the early moments before the ambulance arrived. I’ll share those details in later posts—but the specifics that unfolded during the wait set the stage for all the thin places and torn veils that were sure to follow us into the hours, days, weeks, and months of this setback.

Thin places.
Author Mary DeMuth writes in her book, Thin Places: A Memoir, that “the Celtics define a thin place as a place where heaven and the real world collide, one of those serendipitous territories where eternity and the mundane meet. Thin describes the membrane between the two worlds, like a piece of vellum, where we see a holy glimpse of the eternal—not in digital clarity, but clear enough to discern what lies beyond.”

She further writes that “thin places are snatches of holy ground, tucked into the corners of our world, where, if we pay very close attention, we might just catch a glimpse of eternity…these are snatches of time, moments really, when we sense God intersecting our world in tangible, unmistakable ways.”

He has come so near in the midst of unthinkable pain, in times when all that beat were the shattered pieces of a numb heart. I’ll bear the “how’s” in future posts.

Torn veils.
In 2 Corinthians 3:7-18, Paul imparts to us the difference of seeing God through a veil verses a face-to-face unveiled encounter. After receiving the Ten Commandments from God, Moses’ face shone with a glory that would soon fade, prompting him to cover his face with a veil so that others wouldn’t see the glow dulling. The problem with veils is that they not only keep others from a clear view of us, but they also keep us from having clear sight of God.

Only Jesus can tear the veil and set our sights no longer on the ministry of death and condemnation written on stones, but to see with unveiled faces the glory of God. Suddenly we recognize that God is a living, personal presence desiring to come for us in the hardest of places, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when we turn to the God who is personally present, a living Spirit, we are transformed, “our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.” (v. 18, The Message)

Suffering wickedness in this world can turn our blood cold and cause us to lose heart (Matt. 24:12). That is when many of us trade our freedom for a veil. The worst part of suffering is not the pain, but the damage it can do to our heart, our view of God and our relationship with Jesus. Turning to the living, personal God in these raw places allows the Son of God to adjust our view, and fit together the pieces of our broken heart until we are whole again, shining brighter than before and looking more and more like him. I never understood how suffering could make us one with Jesus until these recent months in the wake of the accident.

I invite you to read through the pages of our family’s life as we sift through the porous membranes of setbacks, thin places, and torn veils that allow pain and joy to intermix until suffering has produced its great reward in all of us—and, as James says, through such we are found lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).

For me, I hear the Spirit saying, it’s time to turn a setback into a launch forward.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Innocence of Beauty

Little girls...
Sitting here trying to capture the perfect thought, I just let out a deep sigh. All sorts of images are vacillating around in my mind. Bouncy, swingy, swaying little figures, skipping down a sidewalk with a sweet little song. Pictures of frilly dress up clothes, pink tutus, and plastic strings of pearls--tiny little feet in high heel shoes. In their innocence I see them.

In her best dress, eyes wide and searching, she looks up, "Don't you like it Daddy?"

Or after the debut of her latest imaginative creation, be it a song, a drawing, or her best made-up dance, she simply wants to know... Do you see me? Do you delight in me? Do you think I'm beautiful?

No matter how it manifests itself, every little girl bears this question in the depth of her soul. No one has to teach it to her. She doesn't conjure it up. It is just there. Given to her by the One who created her in his very own image. 

"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27, underlining mine) 

One of the ways we bear God's image as a woman is in our desire to be beautiful, seen, and enjoyed.

Isaiah 6:3 tells us the whole earth is filled with God's glory. One evening last week I was driving westward with a couple of my kids as the sun was setting. Breaking through the trees we saw it, perhaps the largest, brightest hot pink sun we have ever seen. We couldn't take our eyes off of it! This summer we stood in awe at the shades of turquoise and deep blues saturating the ocean waters of south Florida. They were mesmerizing! From the delicate vulnerability of a flower, to the snow capped mountains in the Rockies, creation is bursting with the glory of God! And it is beautiful.

In Revelation chapter four, John describes what he saw in a vision as the Spirit led him. "The One who sat on the throne looked like precious stones, like jasper and carnelian. All around the throne was a rainbow the color of an emerald...Also before the throne there was something that looked like a sea of glass, clear like crystal."

David asks only one thing from the Lord in Psalm 27:4, "that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple." 

God is beauty and to say he lavishes it upon us would be an understatement! He wants to be seen, and enjoyed. He longs to captivate our attention. (Jeremiah 29:13) Likewise, so does every little girl...and woman. She speaks something different to the world than a man, through her beauty (Eldredge in Captivating).

I've said before that a woman often despises the demand for beauty. Mostly because it has been mishandled, assaulted and abused, tossed aside, and trampled over. Our world has scared it into hiding with its insatiable appetite and gross advertisement for the physical. On the contrary, the church has often diminished it.

A woman is beautiful both in form and in soul/spirit. It is recorded in Genesis 1:31 that the Lord God looked at his creation when he was finished and, seeing all that he had made, said, "it was very good." Peter also writes, "Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel, rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God." (1 Peter 3:3-4)

Though our dress up days and happy skipping are long past, we must recover the alluring innocence of beauty. Every woman needs to know that she does, indeed, possess a beauty all her own to unveil. And that it is wanted.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Beauty: The Invitation

Continued From Previous Post...

"The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result." (Captivating)

The woman in hiding:
Remember Toula in the movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding"?  In the beginning she wore frumpy, baggy, drab-colored clothing that hid any semblance of her figure as a woman. Her hair was just as mousy and her dark eyes downcast behind large framed glasses. Toula worked in her father's Greek restaurant. Though she secretly dreamed of greater things, her father didn't approve. So she remained hardly noticed by those around her, and faded into the background of mere hopeless daily existence.

The striving woman:
Margaret is a high-powered book editor in the hit movie, "The Proposal". Her extra slender frame boasts of her need to exercise religiously, and she works around the clock, even over weekends and while pounding the treadmill. Before she arrives at the office each day, it is teeming with laughter and conversation scattered all across the room. Upon her entrance, one man types the warning on the computer screen to everyone, "the witch is on her broom," and the happy chatter abruptly ceases as workers rush quietly, and hopefully unnoticed, to their respective cubicles. There is no time for play around her; hunker down and get busy. Sure, Margaret's appearance and success are nearly perfect, but they feel forced and contingent upon factors from the outside.

These examples of the hiding and striving woman may be a bit extreme for some of us. Nonetheless, she exists. We see her every day. Maybe in our own mirror. For many of us, we are less extreme than the images of Toula and Margaret, and often an odd mixture of both (as I have been). But no matter, we are hiding and/or striving just the same. And it is soul-killing to us and to those around us.

We strive to look our best with just the right makeup and the latest trendy clothes (I'm not knocking them! Wearing them as I type!) Don't forget the latest diet craze and exercise routines. We hide in the kitchen, behind our books, our office, or mounds of laundry. Women are busy at work, often avoiding eye contact and intimate/vulnerable conversation, or feeding our constant need for control.

It all seems legit, right? I mean, after all, the laundry does have to be folded, and, shouldn't we always look our best? Office work cannot be ignored, and hey, we all need a break with a book or something, right? Yes, and No. What the world, the men in our lives, our children, family, and friends need from us most is our heart.

The excerpt below is taken from an experience John and Stasi Eldredge had several years ago with a woman of deep beauty.

“June is one of the most beautiful women we have ever met. We encountered her a few years ago while doing a retreat on the coast of North Carolina. Her hair was long, swept up loosely and held by decorative combs. She wore unique, dangly earrings and pretty flowing skirts. Her eyes sparkled when she laughed, which she did often, and her smile lit up the room. She was clearly in love with her husband, her face adoring as she gazed at him. June was at rest with herself, at home in who she was. Talking with her, just being with her, made us feel more at rest with ourselves as well. Her spacious, beautiful soul invited others to come, to be, to taste and see that the Lord is good, whatever was happening in your life. She wept at the retreat. She laughed at the retreat. She was gloriously alive and in love, both with her husband and with the God of the Universe…And June was about seventy-five years old…What is the difference?...June’s beauty flows from a heart at rest.”
(Captivating, p. 135)
June reminds me of Esther in "One Night With The King", the beautiful and courageous young woman taken from the pages of Scripture, whose beautiful heart stole the king's.

Eve was created to offer life, and one of the most glorious ways we do this as women is through our beauty. It is obvious by now that we are talking about a soulish beauty. Every woman possesses it. We are born with it, granted us by God Himself, as it is one of the ways we bear His image as a woman. (God himself is beautiful, Revelation 4:3, 6; Psalm 27:4; Isaiah 6:3 proclaims his beauty through the created world; just to name a few!)

Think about it. Who are you most "at home" with? With whom do you find yourself at ease and able to truly be yourself around? In those moments, if I were a betting person, I would bet that's when you let your guard down and your heart shows up. In their presence you aren't afraid and you feel secure, no longer needing to hide or strive. No need to flip the switch to survival mode.

This is where we must learn to live no matter who we are with or where we are. Impossible? June would say no. The invitation is to come again, as we explore the depths of beauty and how we may unveil it.

Friday, September 9, 2011

"Beauty." Why is it an ugly word?

Driving eastward on interstate twenty-four through Tennessee, stands a mountain waiting to be crossed. It's the only straight shot from the music city of Nashville to the valley of Chattanooga. And it is a glorious one! From the top begins the descent with twists and turns and runaway truck paths off to the left in case one loses control on the steep grade. Jagged rock walls stand guard on one side, while tall trees border the other. All of a sudden, as the last tight corner throws its curve, the curtains are thrown back to reveal a mass landscape of flowing hills, mountain peaks, and deep valleys below.

In autumn (my favorite time to pass through there), cascading colors of deep reds, bright oranges and yellows flow for miles down one mountainside and up another, dancing through patches of evergreens. All to a backdrop of crisp blue sky scattered with wispy white clouds. Awing tears wash the eyes at the beauty and lavishness of God's goodness. It sucks the breath right out of the lungs in a deep inhale of the soul. With the exhale, all troubles and perils seem to dissipate for that moment. And the soul rests.
“Beauty may be the most powerful thing on earth. Beauty speaks. Beauty invites. Beauty nourishes. Beauty comforts. Beauty inspires. Beauty is transcendent. Beauty draws us to God. As Simone Weil writes, ‘The beauty of the world is almost the only way by which we can allow God to penetrate us…Beauty captivates the senses in order to obtain permission to pass straight through to the soul…The soul’s inclination to love beauty is the trap God most frequently uses in order to win it.’

God has given this Beauty to Eve, to every woman. Beauty is core to a woman—who she is and what she longs to be—and one of the most glorious ways we bear the image of God in a broken and often ugly world. It’s messy to talk about. It’s mysterious. And that should not surprise us. Women are creatures of great mystery; not problems to be solved but mysteries to be enjoyed. And that, too, is part of her glory.”
(Eldredge, Captivating pp. 133-134, underlining mine)

If this is true, then why has “beauty” become such an ugly word to most of us as women?

We've all heard the saying, "beauty is only skin deep." So we trump that with, "real beauty is from within!" But if we're honest, we don't really believe it for ourselves. Often, a woman despises the demand for beauty. Mostly because it has been mishandled, assaulted and abused, tossed aside, and trampled over. Our world has scared it (true beauty) into hiding with its insatiable appetite and gross advertisement for the physical.

Eldredge further writes that "beauty is the most essential, and yes, the most misunderstood of all the feminine qualities...that it is an essence every woman carries from the moment of her creation. The only things standing in the way of our beauty are our doubts and fears, and the hiding and striving we fall to as a result."

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It is Coming!

For those who are following along through the posts of the past month or so, I apologize for my slowness in getting the next post out! I have fallen behind amidst life and stuff! You should find the next post out by the end of this week, Lord willing. Thanks for your patience and understanding!

Until then, there is plenty to read or re-read from the past year--I have found it takes intention to continue to stay alive to the heart and live from it as Jesus intends and offers. (Proverbs 4:23, John 10:10, Isaiah 61:1-3) Come to him dear sisters, and breathe deeply!