A platform for grace

(Originally posted August 2013)
Last week, a date we’ve been waiting for since April came to pass–the date for the sentencing trial for the man who hit us last April (see this)

This was the date we’d have the opportunity to speak to the court, to give a voice to the victims in the accident, and, we hoped, to give voice to the gospel of grace. We knew we needed to be present, to meet this man in a time of sobriety, to help this man see the faces of those his choices impacted, to help this man hear the message of forgiveness and the opportunity to have a second chance, to choose life and to find purpose and meaning from this. We knew we needed to reiterate the words the Holy Spirit had given us even in that moment in April, when we were, by the grace of God, able to feel compassion and love for this man, to see his weakness and regret and feel empathy and great love and hope for his possible future. We knew we needed to point to the love and grace of our Savior, to make the most of EVERY opportunity.

As it turned out, due to school starting, extra burdened work commitments, etc, only myself and our youngest daughter were able to attend the trial. We prayed about what we would say, what we felt the Lord wanted us to share–we prayed for a message balanced with grace and truth (afterall, we definitely wanted to be sure to remind, with truth, that lives were impacted by one person’s choice), we prayed for our words to bring glory and honor to the Lord, and for our words to point to the life and love of our Savior, and the opportunity for repentance and change. We had been praying about this opportunity since May, when we had learned more about this opportunity for us to have a voice. We had friends praying for this day since we had learned about it.

I wasn’t sure just WHAT I would say, but I had a general “gist” I felt was Spirit-led.

Then, about two hours before the trial, I learned from the victim’s advocate that our platform had certain boundaries we needed to adhere to. One of those boundaries was that we could not address the defendant directly, using the “you” pronoun, but would instead need to address the judge/the court in speaking “about him,” using the third person pronouns and labels “him” and “the defendant.” I was told I could choose to look at the defendant as I spoke “about him” but that I would need to refrain from using the personal “you” in my speech. This was going to be an adjustment, as much of what we had prepared to say was, most definitely, personalizing everything with the “you.” We sought to speak TO him, to share what God had laid on our hearts FOR him, to speak as Christ’s ambassadors.

Another piece of her direction advised that we were not able to speak directly about the case and the set of circumstances from our accident in addressing the court. We could speak only in generalities about how our lives had been impacted, and what we hoped for the court to consider in sentencing, but we were not to bring up specific pieces of evidence or details about the accident itself. This was tricky as we already knew we sought to speak about some of what the Lord had done in some specifics because of that date, and it seemed that was not going to be amenable to the court protocol.

Oh, how I prayed even more fervently for the Lord to guide my thoughts, my words, and my lips—that He would serve as the holy editor of ALL I would share on behalf of our family that date. I had been praying that earlier, but it’s amazing how much fire and passion are stirred in your prayers when you are up against a quick deadline and you’ve had such an abrupt change to all that you have prepared.

Quickly in that prayer time, I was reminded of a passage that has become one of my frequent prayer passages when facing a situation like this—I’ve prayed it when facing difficult and confrontational situations, I’ve prayed it for friends facing hearings and court trials of their own, I’ve prayed it in all sorts of interview processes…and I had, indeed, been praying it many times for this particular case, though in the moment of unsettling that occurred in considering the newly discovered guidelines, my anxious heart seemed to forget this truth for a moment or two. I’m so glad the Lord quickly reminded me of these words Christ spoke to His disciples:

“When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” Luke 12:11-12

I KNEW I needed to rest in this. I KNEW I needed to turn all of my anxiety and fear over to the Lord. I KNEW I needed to TRUST that He would give me the words I should say, at that time. The Lord had already prepared the way.

Oh, how I kept claiming that passage—-as we went through the metal detectors to head to the courtroom, as we filed beside the line of defendants waiting their turn for processing with the court, as we approached courtroom B, and our eyes met with the man who we were there to speak with. He was was seated on the bench just outside the courtroom doors, seated next to an older woman (I considered the woman must be his attorney, as I had learned from the victim’s advocate that his attorney was a female, but I quickly learned that this was the man’s mother). My heart raced inside my chest, my pulse was beating in my throat, and I quickly diverted my eyes and lunged at the courtroom doors, to enter that room and find a seat to breathe.

As we quickly entered the courtroom and ducked into the bench of the last row, the bailiff asked our names and what we were there for. We identified ourselves and our nature of business, and tried to catch our breath and thoughts.

There were other defendants and their lawyers in this room, going over the potential pleas and consequences associated with each. We heard them planning their course for the best possible covering of their circumstances. We heard the pleas of one of the fathers whose son was being sentenced to at least a few days in jail, as he begged for them to arrange his jail time over the weekend(s), so his son may not have to miss classes at school. We heard considerations of making the jail time as convenient as possible to the perpetrators. And, as my mind was speaking to the Lord about all of these things to which I had been blissfully naive before, the defendant in our case entered the courtroom with his attorney and his mother. The attorney led them to the row of seats directly in front of my daughter and me, and they all sat together, literally inches from us.

My heart began to beat even louder in my chest. My mouth went dry. Completely dry. My tongue got thick. My pulse was pounding in my ears. Here was the man who changed our lives in April. Here was the man to whom I had come to speak, and at this point he was seemingly unaware of who we were, and our connection to him. We heard his mother talking casually with him about what time “the game” started that night, and if he wanted her to get pizza. We heard him asking his attorney about the steps to apply for a restricted driver’s license and to retrieve his car from the police impound lot. We heard his attorney explaining more of the probation process. We heard all of this, and we sat, nervously awaiting our time to speak.

The prosecutor came and told us that we were the second case on the docket, that there would be one case just prior to ours, so I had a little bit of time to collect my thoughts. I breathed a sigh of relief, and thanked the Lord for this gift of time.

And, then it happened. The judge changed the order of the dockets, due to the first defendant’s need for a translator for his trial. Suddenly, they were calling forward our defendant, and the prosecutor was looking for the victim to come and speak. That meant me.

At this point, the defendant and his attorney were standing at the front of the courtroom, just before the judge, and I was invited to stand between the prosecutor and the defense attorney, literally inches from the defendant, half facing him and half facing the judge. My heart raced. My mouth went dry. My throat was full of lumps. My mind was this odd place of racing thought processes and yet this resolve to get through this.

I honestly do not remember all that I said. I know that I spoke about the fact that just as vehicles impacted and jarred, lives were impacted and jarred by that one choice to drink and drive. I know that I spoke about the fact that we can each fool ourselves that our choices only affect or harm ourselves, but that this particular incident had served as a reminder that that is not true at all—that there is always potential for our choices to ripple out and affect others, for good or bad.

I know that I spoke to the court, but looked directly at the defendant, about our wish to remind the defendant of the words we had spoken to him at the accident scene…that we love Jesus, and the fact that we love Jesus means that we love this man, even though we didn’t know him before that day, and that we forgive him. I told the court that our family wished for this man to know that not a single day has gone by since April that we haven’t prayed for this man—he has been prayed for every.single.day. I told the court that we hoped that he would take this opportunity at a second chance that has been given him—that he would recognize the many ways this could have been, and should have been, SO much worse than it was—that there has been an opportunity for grace in this, and for good to come of this, if he will allow this to help him turn from those choices in the future. (please know, I know that my words were not as eloquent as these…not saying these are eloquent, but these are far more eloquent than my fumbling nervous lips chained together that day…I’m giving you the gist of my rambling that day)

I told him that there had been good things that had come from this seemingly bad thing (though, as my daughter pointed out later, and I quickly realized upon taking my seat again, I didn’t expound on WHAT those good things were, aside from the reminder that our actions affect everyone and that life can change in a moment..I believe my fear that I would overstep the details of the case took over in this area).

As I sat down, I was shaking, I was quickly realizing the things I “intended to say,” mentally going over the “woulda, coulda, shoulda’s”…wishing I could take to my feet and add to what I had said. But I remained in my seat, and tried to rest in the fact the Lord had covered this all.

I squirmed as I realized I had spoken grace to this man far more than I had intended—I had not spoken as much of the consequences of his decision upon our family. I feared I spoke in an unbalanced manner. I feared I erred in too much grace.

The judge went through the man’s sentencing…which is steep. This man’s one choice is reaping much consequence, heartache, and need for rebuilding in his life. This man’s life is forever going to be impacted by his decision that afternoon in April. The judge issued the consequence and spoke truth about the severity of this man’s decision.

“I feared I erred in too much grace.” As we left the courtroom, and I fought the overanalyzing nature of my mind, the second-guessing of myself, the shaking of my head in disbelief that I “completely left that piece out,” I came at those thoughts with the truth of the Lord’s words above—KNOWING we had been praying for SO long, KNOWING that MANY OTHERS had been praying for SO long, and KNOWING that I was NOT ALONE in that courtroom, that the Holy Spirit was right there with me, teaching me what to say AT THAT TIME—and I came to realize, I would MUCH rather err in issuing too much grace than in issuing too much condemnation. I would MUCH rather err in showing this man LOVE, GRACE, and MERCY. I would MUCH rather remind him that he is not alone in his battle against sin and temptation. I would MUCH rather point to the forgiveness and new life that is available in Jesus.

Yes, I may not have said what I THOUGHT I was going to stay, but I am going to try to trust that the Lord placed me there to be His ambassador to this man and to others in the courtroom. I am going to trust that He gave our family a platform for His grace.

(and, as an aside: I made the mistake of asking my middle school daughter if I made any sense up there, or if I sounded crazy, to which she responded, “You sounded like a crazy lady.” That was encouraging. 🙂 Learn from my mistake–if you find yourself in a similar situation, just don’t even ask your children how you sounded. They will be brutally honest, and you will KNOW that you were crazy.) 🙂


Whiplash. Willpower. Cookies. Grace.

(Originally posted May 2013)
My last post was about a special song at a funeral for my sister-in-law’s mother in April. What I didn’t share in that post was that a few hours after that funeral, after the family dinner was over, and the extra food and flowers had been tucked into various vehicles (including ours) to transport back to the family home, our family was involved in a car accident, at the first stoplight just about 100 feet from the church.

We were rear-ended while sitting at a stoplight. We heard the squealing of brakes, and felt the impact of the car behind us as it lurched us forward a few feet. Amazing how everything can change in the blink of an eye.

As we gathered our composure and faced the reality of what had just happened, my husband walked back toward the other car, and was met with the driver’s pleas for mercy…”I’m soooooo sorry, I’m sooooo sorry!” These pleas were made through a thick tongue and slurred speech. Between that and the aroma coming from within the car, my husband quickly recognized that this man was likely drunk. Upon asking, the driver admitted “yeah, I am.”

My husband immediately used his cell phone to call the police, and the driver begged him “don’t call the cops!” My husband quickly replied that he had most certainly had to, and then he had the man get out of the car and sit on the grassy hill next to our cars. (He feared the driver may do something foolish and try to flee the scene in his car or something and potentially evoke further damage down the road.)

This man started crying as he sat on the hill, as he watched the rest of our family continue to exit our minivan. It would seem the gravity of his choice was hitting him (even in his altered state).

He just kept repeating over and over again: “I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to! I made such a bad choice. I made such a mistake. I’ve ruined my life.” Oddly enough, a wave of compassion and mercy fell over me (it wasn’t there when I first exited the vehicle, as I was concerned about the welfare of my family and about the inconvenience of the damage to our vehicle, and I was very aware of this man’s reckless decision to drive in such an altered state).

I approached the man, and in that moment I felt such a common ground with him. And then I felt the need to share that with him. I  felt the need to share with him that I had “good news for him”. I told him that “we love Jesus, and because we love Jesus, we love you too, even though we don’t know you.” I meant every word.

I also told him that we ALL make mistakes, and make bad choices, but that we have the opportunity to receive God’s grace, to make new choices, and to go forward in that grace and new life. He gushed back, “I looooooove Jesus, too!” (it reminded me of those “I love you, man” scenarios in drunken scenes in movies)

Our van was barely damaged—cosmetic/superficial bumper/paint transfer and scratching (which was AMAZING considering how fast the police determined he was likely traveling before he skidded to the stop that bumped us). Our girls had some immediate pain in their neck and shoulders (they were riding in the middle back), and I developed some pain the next day. We ALL knew it could’ve been such much worse. Our family quickly recognized the potential opportunity for God to be glorified in this, and felt that we had been protected from so very much in that moment, and that there was SUCH an opportunity for this to be used to change a life, forever!

Interestingly, as we shared our experience with a few of our friends, a common response emerged in various forms…”but it was still daylight out, and he was drunk?!” …”how could someone be drunk and driving in that nice neighborhood?” …”it was a weekday, do people get drunk on weekdays?!”

I have found my response to those innocent questions to take a common form….I have asked if they are unfamiliar with the crazy power of addictions. I have tried to gently remind them (because the Lord has CERTAINLY gently reminded ME) that temptations and addictions are POWERFUL STRONGHOLDS that can veil our reasoning and our willpower, and that when we are shackled to an addiction, we are often powerless to hear the voice of truth and reason in that moment, and we are vulnerable to making HORRIBLE choices—-choices we may even decide only affect us, even if there is mounting evidence otherwise!

A very common response I’ve shared is that I am not much different from this man. I struggle with my own addictions and temptations–with my own struggles with numbing my pain or celebrating my joy in excess, in that I certainly do not wait until a proper time of the day or proper occasion to decide I’m going to eat too many Oreos (note: I actually do not even eat or crave Oreos all that often, but I think it makes a point).

Interestingly enough, during this time, the sweet little toddler I get to care for every so often has been very interested in reading Frog & Toad. We have been reading one particular little book of their stories over and over again the past couple of weeks. I had to smile when I was reminded of this story and saw this particular set of pages in the last two weeks:

frog and toad cookies

I may fool myself in thinking that my choice to eat more than is necessary or prudent is not hurting anyone, except perhaps myself (though I may even not recognize that it is hurting me all that much), but the reality is that my choices in that have an impact that ripples far beyond myself, maybe not as overtly as this man’s choice (and, yes, I recognize that my Oreo consumption is not inherently legal or illegal), but consequences nonetheless.

Sin is sin. Addiction is addiction. My need for a Savior to rescue me, to forgive me, and to redeem me is JUST AS GREAT as this man’s. My struggle with my flesh and with the enemy in battling for God’s will in my addiction is JUST AS GREAT as this man’s. We are BOTH sinners in need of grace. We are BOTH offered the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, and we are BOTH offered the free gift of the Holy Spirit power to strengthen us to do ALL THINGS (particularly to see the way out of temptation and walk in righteousness) through Him.

Today is a particularly important day, as we received word this weekend that today is the first official court date for the man we met that day a few weeks ago. Today is a day of facing some very real consequences for choices made that afternoon. Today is a day of having the potential to step forward, to receive consequences, AND (quite possibly) receive the opportunity to make better choices going forward. Today is a judgment day for this man, and our family is PRAYING that he has been able, in his sobered moments since that day, to remember the grace offered him in the name of Jesus Christ, and that he will receive that grace (for the first time, or yet again, anew) and walk as one with a changed life, a new opportunity to love Jesus by walking in obedience to His commands, to bring glory and honor to the Lord, and potentially help others with addictions from making such potentially fatal choices.

We KNOW that God has the opportunity to glorify Himself through all of this, and we are hopeful that there is a sweet opportunity for that VERY thing to happen today, and as we go forward from today. We pray that the Lord would be glorified by this man, and that this incident would be a milestone for him that would not only change his life, but would bear MUCH spiritual fruit for the Kingdom.

AND we’re praying that we don’t quickly forget the sweet gift of understanding and common ground compassion the Lord gave us for this man who, honestly, is not all that different from us. What a gift we have been given in this moment to have love and compassion for a fellow sinner in need of grace.

(Who knows….perhaps we’ll share Oreos with him in heaven?!) 😉


This week has found me feeling weak. If I’m honest, the past couple of weeks have found me feeling weak.

No one thing has made me feel this way, but a series of heart-wrenching circumstances in my friend’s lives, weighty decisions in my family’s lives, and various commitments–some more social and fun, and others more sobering and ministry/calling related. (To clarify: ministry and calling related things CAN be social and fun as well–and often are–but the task of sharing God’s Word is a weighty prospect, and in timeframes amidst a whirlwind of ministry needs of those I love, it can feel far weightier and almost insurmountable. )

And as I walk through all of these varied situations….these varied roles…these varied expectations….I am more and more aware that I am weak. I pray and I pray…and I am weak.

Oh, sure, I have beautiful glimpses of God’s sovereignty, of God’s grace, but I find that as I face the tasks and expectations before me, I am weak.

In so many ways, I wonder, “How is this ever going to come together? How can I ever do Your will today?”

I begin to see all of the ways I have been “less than”…all the ways I am the wrong person for the “job”…I begin to listen to the recording in my head that tells me I’m not good enough…I’m not smart enough, clever enough, wise enough, gifted enough…I’m not kind enough, holy enough, worthy enough…

And when those “enoughs” aren’t enough, I begin to go to the “worsts” in my role as a friend, a wife, a mom, and a Christ follower. I begin to disqualify myself over and over again.

I grow weaker and weaker.

I grow more and more afraid.

I grow more and more doubtful.

Nothing feels “normal” anymore.

I want to hide.

Have you ever felt that way?

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in this (though in those moments of weakness I can begin to convince myself that I am).

What do you do when you’re weak?

Do you retreat further into yourself? Do you try your best to put on your happy face and pretend that everything is “normal”?

OR, do you recognize this shift from “normal” to “weak” and, transparently, call out for reinforcements?

Do you cry out to God, and invite others to do so on your behalf?

Do you lay your weakness, your fears and your doubts, at the feet of your Savior?

Do you remember that He is sitting upon the throne of grace, eager to sympathize with you in your weaknesses (Heb 4:15-16)?

What shifts your heart and mind from feeling “stuck” in your weakness?

There has been a popular witty theme making the rounds of Christian living memes the last year or two…”I need a little bit of coffee, and a whole lotta Jesus”….or “Fueled by coffee and Jesus.”

Who doesn’t love a cup of strong coffee while reading the promises of God and relying upon the far-stronger-than-caffeine Jesus?!  (I personally believe the pairing of a steaming cup of black coffee and God’s Word are close to perfection, though I can’t find chapter and verse to support this.)

And, along those lines, this weak woman, feeling so insufficient, so less than enough, so very, very weak to accomplish the tasks before me, I succumbed to this desperate longing for strength.

I needed more shampoo, so I went to that aisle, and went straight to the section with the brand I typically buy. And, right next to my “normal” choice was THIS possibility.

{Notice the target audience for this product? One with NORMAL to WEAK hair}

The spiritual metaphors within this choice made my heart beat faster and my mind grow giddy. Caffeine infusion for my hair?? A promise of “thick and full” for my “normal to weak” hair??

If EVER I needed something to infuse more caffeine, more “thick and full” to my life, it was now.

I considered the abundant life Jesus has promised His followers (so opposite of the destruction of life the devil seeks; John 10:10). Thick and full, and fortified—so opposite of what my thought life was doing to my heart, mind, and soul.

I considered the breakdown of normal to weak—how something had lost its fullness, its nourishment, its vibrancy–how it needed strengthening and reinforcement. I considered how the right “ingredient” could fuel or power strength in a weak condition. And, I considered, how God’s Word, particularly God’s GRACE, is the “right ingredient”….how it is “all-sufficient” and how it makes the weak to be strong (2 Corinthians 12:9).

I considered the invigorating energy and power that comes from caffeine—the focus, the zeal, the endurance–and how it is similar (though not even close in caliber) to the focus, the zeal, and the endurance that is ours through the Holy Spirit. I grew excited about the potential physical expression of a spiritual principle, as I considered massaging this shampoo (and conditioner) into my scalp.

I considered the amazing timing of this product, just when I was feeling SO.VERY.WEAK. and SO.VERY.NOT.ENOUGH. (not to mention the so.very.weak. state of my fine, middle-aged, ever thirsty hair).

SOLD. Because I thought it would “fix” my weakness or my problems? NO. (I’m not even convinced it will “fix” my weak hair)

But because it could serve as a reminder of the ways the Lord provides His strength in our weakness, and the ways His provision of grace and strength are FAR GREATER than the most potent cup of caffeine.

Because this weak woman finds great delight in letting her physical expressions remind her of spiritual truths. And, right now, she is desperate to remember that when she is weak, He is strong.  When she is imperfect, His power is made perfect. When she is not enough, HE is. (And, hey, let’s face it….if my hair benefits in the process, that is a blessing beyond what I could have asked for or imagined, too, right?!) 😉

How can YOU walk in that reminder today?

Ya’ Gotta Get the Root, Too, Momma!

This weekend, our family tended to the flowerbeds which had gained their fair-share of weeds in the previous two weeks. It was wonderful to have the entire family chipping in, to have many hands making light work. And, it was also wonderful to have some unscripted chat time. That unscripted chat time often leads to teachable moments, and this time was no different, except that I keep smiling at the teachable moment my daughter had for me.

We were weeding the marigold bed, next to the vegetable garden, a bed whose primary purpose is to help bring good bugs to the vegetables and help ward off bad bugs from the vegetables. It looks nice enough, but it is there for function rather than beauty, per se. The sun was setting, and the chicken was nearing perfection on the grill, so I began to pick up the pace on my weed pulling in this bed.

This changed pace was not lost on my daughter, who promptly rebuked me. She said, “You aren’t getting deep enough, mom! You’re just picking up the tops of the weeds! That’s not going to do ANY good!” I continued to pry at the weeds with increased fervor (though I KNEW she was correct in her assessment and rebuke), and replied, “I just want to get this done before dark and dinner–it’s just the marigold bed! I just don’t want to SEE the weeds anymore right now.”

She looked at me with her cute little scrunched up face–that one that’s getting so much more mature over the last year–and said, “But, ya’ gotta get the root, too, momma, or else it doesn’t do ANY good! The weeds will just come back!”

Who taught her this, anyway?! 😉 It seems that years of weeding the flowerbeds together had seen the roles reverse this year–it was I that was hurrying through, and it was she who was insisting on a job well done the FIRST time! 😉 She was right, and I knew it.

Those words keep rolling over and over in my mind the past couple of days. “Ya gotta get the root, too, momma.” Profound truth in those words!

How many times in our lives do we try to “clean up” the outside, trying to hurry with a “quick fix” or some other “cosmetic” fix, to remove the unsightly “weeds” quickly, only to have to “fix” it again soon thereafter? It may look good to the naked eye, but what’s left behind that allows for festering regrowth or even (gulp) worsening problems?

If we don’t take the careful time and diligence to “dig” deeper, to actually address the root, to work at prying it from its bed in the soil of our hearts, we are only giving a superficial help to the problem–it may look acceptable, it may seem to be made better, but the very thing that fed the problem/weed, that which gave it sustenance, which allowed it to crowd out the healthy life around it, is still there, able to grow again into a weed, into a life-choking pestulence, an ugliness in our lives.

How many times have I experienced this? How many times have those I love experienced this? Oh, such pain to watch someone we love (or our ourselves) hastily pick at the tops of the weeds, only to have the roots nourish growth of those same weeds (sometimes bigger than before) in a short matter of time.

This morning, I returned to the marigold bed, and I took the careful time to diligently remove the roots from the weeds I had hastily pulled this weekend. It was very telling to see the portion of the bed my daughter had slowly, diligently weeded….no traces of weeds left, and to see the portion of the bed I had hastily cleared—small evidences of new growth already appearing!! I prayed for God’s forgiveness as I pulled those roots…asking Him to help me to remove the roots in my life that are not rooted in Him…that do not give TRUE life, that bring about the weeds in my life, that bring about choking to myself and to others, and which crowd out His purpose and plan in my life.

Ya’ gotta get the root, too, momma. Yes, child, ya’ do.

*Originally written June 2007; originally posted June 2011*

Things aren’t always as they appear.

In this seemingly social-media-driven culture, with cell phone cameras in our hands most of the time, our eyes are inundated with photos of the seemingly mundane over and over again.  Scrolling through our media feed we see pictures of a dog’s bath, a cat’s nap, a child’s popsicle, a pair of feet at the beach, text message screens, and food. So.much.food.

(On a side note: did you know that there have been various studies within the restaurant industry to address the longer “table times” customers are having, due to being on phones after being seated, taking photos of the menus but not reading them to prepare to order, and then the many photos–and retakes–of the foods and drinks after they arrive? It’s a real phenomenon that is impacting wait staff’s tip earnings and restaurant revenues.)

In our desire to “share real life” with others, we post photos of our cup of tea, our Starbucks, mound of french fries, and our homemade grilled cheese. We take a photo and hurry to find a filter that will enhance the image–to make it look better than it is, to elevate its celebratory status, and then we attempt to craft a witty caption to impress our friends.

But, sometimes, the photo doesn’t tell the whole story. In fact, sometimes the photo may only show the “best” part of the story.  (After all, grandma taught us to put our best foot forward…and perhaps society has groomed us to put further “regulations” on what is “best.”)

Sometimes we are consciously aware of this, and other times we may not be–it has been so ingrained in us to get the best angle/best lighting/best representation.

I recently made grilled cheese sandwiches for my family. As the sandwiches were sizzling in the frying pan, achieving their lovely golden brown, as the cheese began to heat up and melt, I was interrupted by a text message (oh how I wish it was something more pressing or urgent or noble, but, a text message it was), and I began to “chat” with my friend. I walked away from the frying pan, and nearly forgot I was cooking anything at all. By the time I “remembered” the food I was preparing, I discovered the bottoms of the sandwiches were putting out smoke. Not good.

I flipped the sandwiches and audibly gasped as I surveyed the damage. One sandwich had blackened bread. No doubt my distraction had impacted the sandwiches–though only one had the very telltale signs of the blackening effect. I tried to see if I could possibly replace that piece of bread, to salvage the sandwich, but it seemed the weight of the melted cheese was attached to that piece of the bread rather than its companion. I determined to make the “other” side of the sandwiches as perfectly golden as possible, and decided I would serve myself the one blackened sandwich.

My plan was successful, and the alternate side turned out a wonderful golden color. I plated the sandwiches, and my daughter almost took the blackened sandwich by mistake. She couldn’t see what I had seen and knew–that the sandwich had a burnt quality on the underside.

See, on the plate, the sandwich looked beautiful, inviting, delicious.


[This photo does not include the use of a food filter, or any filter for that matter. This golden beauty is purely its own.]

But, because I knew what she didn’t, I couldn’t let her have that sandwich. I didn’t want her to have that “less-than” sandwich. I wanted to give her the better.

And, as I realized her initial impression of the sandwich, I recognized the incredible parallel to our initial impressions of things, circumstances, and people.

See, sometimes we look at the outside or a certain side of an item, a circumstance, or a person’s life (especially through the filter of social media), and we begin to desire that thing which we see. [And, if we aren’t careful, we can grow discontent or even jealous, based solely on what we think something is, based on its appearance.]

We can become consumed with our want of something different than we have, all the while not realizing the thing we “want” may actually have a hidden characteristic or flaw or trial that we cannot see in this “snapshot.”

We can be drawn to the golden appearance on the plated item, and not realize that the other side of the bread is blackened (which is a diplomatic way of saying “burned”). We can begin to desire something that, if we were to place it in our mouth, would have a bitter bite to it, a very hard texture, and which might well cause us to want to spit it out and lose our appetite altogether.

Sometimes when we only see the “pretty” side of something we can be drawn to something that may have a “bite” and a “hardness” to it, that, if we knew it was there, we would not likely willingly pick up and bite into with such eagerness.

I wasn’t proud of the burning of the bread and all that it represented. I wasn’t proud of the distracted nature of my time in that moment. I wasn’t proud of the potential waste of food and budget.

In my heart of hearts, I wanted to cover up the burnt nature of the bread, and I did in the way I plated it, even knowing I would be the one to eat it, somehow I thought I could trick my mind and palate if I had the beautiful side facing me as I ate. And yet, I knew the bread was burned.

What about you? Have you ever desperately wanted to cover your blemishes, your distractions, your “less thans,” and only put forward your best foot?

God’s Word says that man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.

[Oh, if only this side looked like the other!]
I don’t want to be so consumed with outward appearance that I miss cultivating a heart that is pleasing to God. I don’t want to have to consider how I’m “plated.”

I want to have a heart that approaches God (and others) in transparency and sincerity. I want my heart to be made more and more pure, and I want what others see to be a sincere reflection of that purity– to allow others to taste and see that the Lord is good.


Clearing the Hurdles

Yesterday I had the opportunity to take a long walk with a beautiful young lady God brought to me a few years ago. We share a few similarities in our past, and she sought me out for mentoring, friendship, and love.

Our walk was one of catching one another up–in sharing what we’ve missed as miles and busyness have kept us from sharing sooner. We shared the victories and the pains we’ve battled over the last few months. We considered some of the possibilities that lie before us, and considered how we’re yielding ourselves to the Lord in the midst of all of that.

At one point in our conversation, I was reminded of this nimble young lady’s experience as a hurdler. She is a little dynamo who has been able to clear the hurdles on the track effortlessly. She knows how to get that little body to the proper speed, in the proper form, and proper timing to soar over hurdle after hurdle, one after the other, time and time again.

I told her yesterday (again) how amazed I continue to be that she is able to do this! She is just a handful of inches taller than me (which is not tall by any stretch of the imagination), and yet she is able to send that body into the air, clearing hurdle after hurdle.

I shared with her that hurdles had been the bane of my existence throughout the horrifying years of upper elementary and middle school PE. I shared that I would tense up, and stop short of the hurdle, paralyzed by fear, ready to collapse in a pool of my own tears and pity. I told her that even thinking about it again right then brought me great distress and fear.

I asked her how in the world she got that little frame of hers up and over those hurdles? What’s the secret?

She shared that it’s all in gaining the proper momentum before you get to the hurdles. It’s in the mental and physical preparation you give your body to be ready to clear the hurdles. It’s about knowing that you can clear the hurdles, rather than focusing on your possibly not clearing them.

Hmmm….those sounded like words to consider! (and made this middle-aged mama want to consider heading out to the track for some hurdle practice…seeing if I could physically fling this aging body over some physical hurdles, as a demonstration/illustration of the many proverbial hurdles I have already and will continue to need to clear in my lifetime)

It occurred to me that this sweet young thing had all of the answers for clearing the hurdles in a physical sense, but was paralyzed with fear and regret, with doubt and shame, and seemed unable to clear the hurdles in her emotional and spiritual life. She is not unlike most of us, is she?!

How can we gain proper momentum BEFORE we get to the hurdles??

Spend time in God’s Word. Fill our hearts and minds with His truth. Let it change our thinking, about ourselves and our circumstances, and most importantly about our God.

How can we mentally and physically prepare?

As a result of spending time in God’s Word, or in response to His Word, we can mentally and physically submit ourselves to the Holy Spirit’s leading. We can yield our will, our own agenda, to the leading of the Holy Spirit—to be Spirit-led rather than being led by our flesh nature.

We can replace thoughts of doubt, fear, and shame with truths about who God is, and who we are in Him.

God’s Word doesn’t promise us that we will not have trouble in this world…in fact, it reminds us over and over again that we will suffer hardship and trouble in this lifetime. BUT, it also reminds us that in that hardship and trouble, we have a hope set before us in Jesus Christ, the One who has overcome the world. The One who gives lift to our legs, who is more than able to catapult our bodies over each and every hurdle, no matter how many there are, no matter how close together or far apart they are, no matter how varied the height of the bar. Every time. Each hurdle cleared.

And if I allow Him to be my strength, to be the One to guide my body over the hurdle, I have less chance of being paralyzed in my tracks–at getting stuck in a spot where I cannot move one leg any further forward. This doesn’t mean I won’t have bruises, nicks, and scars on my legs, from my feeble attempts to clear the hurdles myself, or in those instances where my faith waivers and my legs get a little drag. This doesn’t mean I’ll win any ribbons or break any records.

But, it does mean, I can and will finish the race. It does mean I can and will be able to look back and see so many of the hurdles He has helped me clear…the victories we have shared together. And it means I just may be able to walk alongside some younger hurdlers…some fear-filled ladies who just don’t see how their short, feeble legs could ever clear those foreboding hurdles…and I can point them to the best hurdle coach ever—Jesus Christ, Himself.

Suddenly, I’m a little more eager for the spring air that’s been blowing here to usher in track and field season, and to go and cheer on some young hurdlers.

*Originally posted March 20, 2013*

“We Don’t Already Have This”

Last weekend, we took an impromptu stroll down memory lane. We dusted off a few of the good old VHS tapes full of precious memories, and sat down to enjoy reminiscing years gone by.
Years of our family’s life flashed before our eyes…Christmases, birthdays, dance recitals, school programs. Amazing how surreal it feels to watch those images, and have the very real memories and emotion wash over one’s mind, as if it were happening at this very point in time! To watch those images of little ones (even an era there where ALL of our children were shorter than their less than 5-foot-tall mama), and recall with such clarity the joy (and trial) of those years, and then to take my eyes from the television screen, to look around our living room with girls who are all taller than their mama…taking up adult-sized portions of couches, chairs, and floorspace…it’s hard to believe that so much has changed in such a seemingly short matter of time.

One particular tape we watched has stuck with me in profound ways, as I think it is such a beautiful picture of joy…of childlike faith and wonder…and, yet, the mom in me remembers all too well the lesson that was behind the words. 🙂

Around the time one of our daughters was turning 4 years old, our girls began receiving duplicate gifts from various relatives and/or friends. The first time this happened to this child, she was puzzled and responded with “Oh! We already have this one (insert puzzled look on face, biting lip)….but that’s okay, now we have two!” (a sweetly positive statement, and wonderful outlook; however, her daddy and I wished to instill a more-gracious-still response) We talked much about how it wasn’t even necessary to let the giver know that we already had a particular item—we shared that we can simply say “Thank you!” and let the giver know we are grateful for their gift (so as not to rob the moment of giving)!

We talked about this much as a family–seeking to be gracious recipients of ALL gifts (from others and most certainly from God).

As we watched the family birthday party and Christmas gatherings unfold before our eyes (the birthday party and Christmas were days apart for this little one), there was one common phrase uttered enthusiastically from this child each and every time she pulled an item out from its wrapping…”We don’t already have THIS!” “oooo, and we don’t already have THIS, either!” “oh, and look, we don’t already have this!” Over and over again, she would proudly hold the item up HIGH in the air, proclaim with great delight the fact that we had not previously owned said item, and, often, look back towards her parents as if for approval to her application of the lesson. 🙂 Watching these moments brought that season of teaching back to mind in such a flash!

Watching the enthusiastic proclamation, this many years removed from that preschool-mom season, made me consider how apt that reply should be for each of us, as God’s children to have upon receipt of each gift! “We Don’t Already Have This!” “And, now, look at THAT! We don’t already have that, either!” And, of course, to those gifts which we’ve already received (and perhaps don’t feel as though we need duplicates of—or perhaps that we don’t necessarily “want”)….”Thank you, Father, for this gift!” (knowing it is good and perfect)
*Originally posted December 2012*