9.23.2016

He trusts me. Even when I don't.

Every morning my husband rises while it is still dark, prepares for his day, kisses my sleeping head, and leaves for work, trusting me to run our home and care for our children while he is gone. 
He has full confidence in me, even when I am unable to muster any for myself.

Two weeks ago I sent him a text which read, "I am a failure. I'm sorry. I have failed you because I have failed your children. I am overwhelmed and under-equipped. Every day I wake up thinking, "I can do this!" But before the clock strikes 8:00 am, I have sinned. Frustration, anger, impatience, annoyance - pick one. I am not a good mom. I don't meet all of their needs ... I don't even know if I CAN. I'm sorry. Forgive me for failing them - and for failing you."

I do not remember any of the words he wrote in response except these: 
Failure is an action, Michelle, not a person.

Hmm.

I have not been able to stop thinking about something else Dennis said, at Tyler's memorial service.
Boys ask, "Are we done yet?"
MEN ask, "What's next?"

Right now, I feel like a 7-year-old boy whining, "Am I done yet? Can I go to bed? I'm tired. Weary. Emotionally drained. Out of patience, kindness, and grace. ARE WE DONE YET? Please, tell me we are done!"

But I am not a boy. I am not a girl. I am a grown woman. I too should be asking, "What's next?"

Rising early when I am still tired. What's next?
Breakfast and chores and prepping for the day. What's next?
Teaching lessons, checking for understanding, grading. What's next?
Driving kids to classes and fulfilling requirements of said classes. What's next?
Shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, running errands, paying bills. What's next?
Understanding, accommodating, and adapting life and lessons for five dyslexic children. What's next?
Praying for wisdom, understanding, and compassion for our children with learning/social needs so I can serve them better and encourage them in their struggles and in their successes. What's next?
Spending intentional, purposeful, productive time in the Word and prayer. What's next?
Serving my husband, meeting his needs, encouraging and helping him. What's next?
Exercising my spiritual gifts to bless the body of Christ and honor the Lord. What's next?
Personally investing in each of my children so they feel connected and wanted by me. What's next?
Ministering to extended family. What's next?
Investing in and maintaining friendships. What's next?
Health and fitness so I am strong and able to serve the Lord and my family. What's next?

Lord! I do not want to be a petulant child who complains or grumbles about the tasks set before her. I want to be the WOMAN who does what You call her to do and then looks up eagerly to ask, "What else, Lord? What else do You have for me?"
I love being a wife and I love being a mother. Many things come naturally and are accomplished without effort because I am who You designed me to be. But there are so many things I do NOT do well, and You know how much that truth bothers me. I no longer compare myself to other moms for I know nothing is ever as it seems, but I do compare myself to Your Word, as I should, and within those pages I find myself wanting. 
I experience the fruits of the Spirit because the Spirit dwells within me, but I am not driven by joy and kindness and patience and self-control. Please, Father, teach me how to plant, harvest, and consume spiritual fruit - every single day of my life - so the fruit continually falls on the everyday parts of motherhood. 
Scripture says that Your grace is sufficient for me because when I am weak I am STRONG. But it also says, "The JOY of the Lord is your strength," so I am asking You to give me that joy! The kind of joy that provides the strength needed to do Your will because You are not finished me with me yet. Until You call me HOME to glory You will continue to accomplish Your purposes and plans for my life, and there will always be a "next."
I want to be faithful, Lord. To You, to Dennis, and to Micah, Luke, Caleb, Josiah, Isaiah, and Ellie.
On my own, I will never succeed, but with YOUR joy and YOUR strength I can do anything you ask of me, and when I do, I will be teaching my children - to do the same.


As I look at these faces and think about the role God has chosen me for, with all of the beauty and struggle, trial and triumph that accompanies motherhood, there is one verse that keeps spinning through my mind.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. I Corinthians 15:58

Thank you, Dennis, for reminding me that failure does not define me. When I do fail (a verb, not a noun!), it is an opportunity for the Lord to show me my weaknesses, remind me how much I need Him, and strengthen me through the power of His might. Thank You for believing in me and trusting me when I do not trust myself. You are good for me, and I need You. Michelle

9.20.2016

Quote.

In motherhood, the everyday question - "Will I sacrifice?" is answered every time a child’s concern or need must come before my own, which is most of the time.

The everyday question, however, asks not just about what I do but also about my attitude
Will I joyfully pour out my life as a fragrant offering before the
Lord for the benefit of my children? 
Will I serve my children out of obligation and duty or will I serve
like I'm serving God Himself? 
Will I die to myself so that I might live to God in the specific
calling He has given me as a mom?

The question "Will I sacrifice?" must be answered every day.

Motherhood is not so much the big, dramatic acts of sacrifice, 
but the little, every day, unseen ones.
~ Christine Hoover
                                          
And let us not grow weary of doing good, 
for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up
Galatians 6:9

9.18.2016

He won the moment.

When Mariah and I were planning Tyler's memorial service, I asked her who she wanted to speak to represent the different sides of his life. Tyler's sister, two of his friends, and his Gunnery Sergeant gave wonderful tributes, and Dennis was chosen to speak from the perspective of a mentor.
When I shared Mariah's request, he was surprised - and honored. Dennis loved Tyler. And Mariah knew it.
I finally sat down to piece together what Dennis shared at the service - because it mattered. He spoke truth. Not just about who Tyler was, but about what a man should be. And he was not ashamed of his tears. I want my boys to remember what he said, and I am confident the Lord will use D's words to encourage the hearts and minds of others who need to be reminded that we can do more. Not for our own glory - but for the Lord's.
Thank you, Mariah, for giving Dennis the opportunity to share his love, respect, and affection for a young man who deeply touched his heart and brought him much joy. 

                                      ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

     It has been both my privilege and my pleasure to train students, athletes, and teachers for the past twenty years. Among all those I have trained, it is not a stretch to say Tyler was among the best of them. He really was exceptional. He was humble and teachable and desired to be intentional rather than accidental about his pursuits.
     In 2013 Tyler and his friend Keegan were preparing to attend ALERT. Both of them showed up at my door to ask if I would train them. I said, "It depends. Do you want to be the BEST guys there? Or do you just want to be there?" They said they wanted to be the best, to which I replied, "Good! But I am not going to train you - I'm going to kill you!" They smiled.
     During the next month, I abused them. Before you begin feeling sorry for them, however, know that my abuse was not in vain. I like to say, "I beat them in the name of Jesus." They did 400-yard bear crawls, 400-yard buddy carry's, car pushes, and endless pushups, to name a few. Throughout the workouts, I would call out Bible verses to encourage them. Powerful and meaningful verses like: "How long shall I suffer with you?" or "Like a door turns on its hinges a sluggard turns on his bed. Give me 25 more pushups!" And my personal favorite, when they were suffering the most, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
     Throughout the training, I also sought to be intentional by giving them life lessons. "Do you desire to be great? You must become servant of all." Matthew 20:23 Tyler understood that having a strong body meant he was strong to SERVE. Boys ask, "Are we done yet?" Men ask, "What's next?" Tyler embraced the "What's next?" He served. All the time.
     The lesson I used most was the story of a Navy Admiral's words to a group of SEALs prior to Hell Week. He said, "Win the moment. You don't have to win the day, the afternoon, or morning, or hour. Just win this moment, and then focus on the next."
     Like I said earlier, Tyler was intentional, not accidental, in everything he did. Including relationships. We have a huge couch in our family room that I have labeled "the crying couch" because my bride has spent countless hours sitting on that couch counseling women in crisis, women who are broken, and women who are hurting. We have also had the privilege of meeting with many couples on that same couch.
     While preparing for marriage, Tyler sought to be intentional about his role as a husband, protector, and provider. He was humble and teachable and took in every word of encouragement and admonishment about loving, caring for, and showing concern for his bride, Mariah. He treated her like a queen because that is what she was to him - his queen. And I marveled at this. How could someone so young already get this? He inspired me.
     Last Monday I had the opportunity to visit Tyler in the hospital. The room was full of people, so I crouched down so I could speak quietly in his ear and share some words of encouragement before asking if I could pray for him. He said, "That would be good." Following my prayer, I stood up and noticed the room was now empty - it was just Tyler and me - so I stood silently by his bedside for a few minutes. He opened his eyes and asked me if he could pray, and I said, "Absolutely!" I moved closer to touch him, and he prayed: Lord, thank You for Your grace for Mariah and me. I don't deserve it. You are so good to us. Help me to glorify You. Please allow me to find a comfortable position in bed so I can sleep. Please allow me to be able to eat a couple of bites of food ... that would be good. Help me to watch my tongue when I am uncomfortable and not feeling well so I don't bring You shame. In Jesus name, Amen
At this point, I was sobbing and marveling because of the simplicity of his request and the desire to guard his mouth in the moments when he was in greatest pain.
     A few days later, Tyler won the moment when Jesus showed him the "what's next?" and ushered him into the presence of God.

9.17.2016

Quote.

We cannot pray in love and live in hate 
and still think we are worshipping God.
~ A.W. Tozer

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. 
Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 
Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 
Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 
This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. 
We love because he first loved us. 
Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. 
For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. 
And He has given us this command: 
Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.
I John 4

9.14.2016

FAILURE. It does not define me.

I am struggling.

I know I should not be listening to the lies. I know I need to suit up in my Ephesians 6 armor - daily - so I am prepared to defend myself against the blows of the enemy. I know I am redeemed, free, and completely secure in the arms of the Father. I KNOW. But the feelings are not following the knowledge.


F A I L U R E.

That is the word that keeps bouncing back and forth in my mind.
Every area is under attack.
Parenting. THWACK!
Homeschooling. THWACK!
Spiritual disciplines. THWACK! THWACK!
Health. THWACK!
Relationships. THWACK!
Lord, please! Smash that stinking ball!

I hate that word. 
When one of our children fail, I look him/her in the eye and firmly state, "Your failure does not DEFINE you. Everyone makes mistakes. Patterns define you, but mistakes and failures create opportunities for growth and maturity because you are able to turn that failure into a learning experience, and hopefully, not repeat the same mistake twice."
Great advice. And true. Scripture says, "This one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind, and straining toward what is ahead I press on toward the goal ..." 
Yet here I sit, deaf to my own preaching, and feeling - like a failure.
Lord ... 

I know it is the lie of the enemy.
I know he is trying to put my focus on Self so I cannot see the Savior, hear the Savior, BELIEVE the Savior.
He wants to devour me, and he doesn't even try to hide that fact!
He hates me. And I know it.
Instead of standing with my feet firmly planted, dressed in full battle gear, and wielding a freshly-sharpened sword - I - am slouched in a chair wearing a tank top, cut-offs, and flip flops while loosely holding a spatula. 
When you picture such an image, doesn't it make you want to scream, "Protect me, Michelle! Protect ME!"
Of course not. It's pathetic.

Today I hopped on the internet highway and typed in the words "verses on failure." In a Divinely ironic twist, these were the verses that appeared on the screen.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:4-7

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. 

Psalm 73:26

Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you; He will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 


My lips curled into an amused smile as I shook my head and mumbled, "Of COURSE He would respond to me this way."
Not one verse is about failure. In fact, every verse focuses on the LORD. Just as it should be.

I am not a perfect mother, wife, friend, sister, daughter, or woman. 
I make mistakes. I hurt. I offend. 
But none of these failures DEFINE me. 
I am a redeemed child of a God who gives unlimited grace and new mercies every morning because even when I am faithLESS, He remains FAITHFUL. It's who He is. And I am grateful.

Lord, forgive my laziness in the spiritual battle. You command me to FIGHT, and I have disobeyed orders. My feelings cannot be the catalyst for my actions. They are ever-changing and unreliable. Action and obedience must come FIRST because they are based in TRUTH. Ephesians 6 does not say, "Put on the full armor of God" unless you don't feel like it ... don't see the need ... or want to do something else instead. "SUIT UP!" You yell. "There is an enemy that seeks to destroy you, and unless you are prepared - you will.not.win. GET DRESSED, soldier! The battle is raging around you and it is time to ENGAGE!"
Oh, Lord. I have been such a lazy soldier, and because of this, the enemy was given access to my heart and mind - and he won the fight. I know I cannot be perfect this side of heaven, but I can seek to be the BEST Michelle I can be, not in my own strength - but in YOURS. I know I am not a failure. I am fearfully and WONDERFULLY made, and my souls knows it. Very well. Thank You, Lord, for bringing truth to a weakened mind and restoring JOY and contentment once again.


Seems like all I can see was the struggle
Haunted by ghosts that lived in my past
Bound up in shackles of all my failures
Wondering how long is this gonna last
Then You look at this prisoner and say to me "son
Stop fighting a fight that's already been won"

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off theses heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be
I am redeemed

All my life I have been called unworthy
Named by the voice of my shame and regret
But when I hear You whisper, "Child lift up your head"
I remember oh God, You're not done with me yet

I don't have to be the old man inside of me
'Cause his day is long dead and gone
I've got a new name, a new life I'm not the same
And a hope that will carry me home

I am redeemed, You set me free
So I'll shake off these heavy chains
Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be

Oh God I'm not who I used to be
Jesus I'm not who I used to be

'Cause I am redeemed
Thank God, redeemed

9.10.2016

We need to PRAY - MORE!

Our study of The Power of Prayer in a Believer's Life continues to stop me in my tracks and encourage me in my walk with the Lord.

My favorite quotes from chapter 3:

"God's people have always found out the best of their God when in the worst of conditions. God is good at all times, but He seems to be at His best when we are at our worst.”
I think we sometimes feel like we are supposed to experience God the.same.way - all.the.time. But is it actually possible? 
How many names of God do we see in Scripture? Dozens - if not hundreds. Healer, provider, comforter, Savior, Shepherd, high priest, refuge, strength … these names, descriptions, and attributes are real and true. They often blend together, of course, because when God comforts us in our sorrow He also gives us the strength we need to endure the sorrow. But we do not need Him to exhibit all of them at the same time. 
How often have we heard ourselves or others say, “When I was going through 'xyz' trial I experienced God in a way I have never experienced Him before.” “I was completely dependent on Him!” “I have never prayed or felt the peace of God the way I did when I was walking through that difficult time.”
Why?
Because our God meets us exactly where we are and gives us exactly what we need in that moment.
When Elijah was exhausted and starving in the hills, God did not send comfort - He sent FOOD! When Hannah cried out in her barrenness, God did not give her husband a promotion at work - He opened her womb! When the woman at the well confessed her sin of infidelity, Jesus did not heal her - He forgave her sins!
God knows our needs before we do, and He already knows how He will meet those needs before we lay them out before Him.
Therefore, it is no surprise that He would seem at His best when we are at our worst because everything we know about Him when things are GOOD is multiplied and magnified when we feel as though we are drowning.
He is a good God. All the time. Especially when we need Him the most.

We are commanded to pray because ... "We do not forget to eat or drink or go to work or go to our beds to rest, but we often do forget to wrestle with God in prayer and spend long periods in consecrated fellowship with our Father and our God. 
Hours for the world! Minutes for Christ! The world has the best, while prayer gets leftovers of our time. We give our strength and freshness to the ways of mammon and our tiredness to the ways of God. 
"Call upon Me," He says, for He knows that we are apt to forget."
Um, OUCH.
I am embarrassed to admit that I have been this person. Giving my “best” to earthly matters while neglecting the most important one - communion with my God.
These phrases are painfully powerful: minutes for Christ, prayer gets leftovers, give tiredness to God. Yikes.
I don’t know about you, but I am apt to forget to set aside intentional, focused time with the Lord. I pray all day, sending up petitions and pleas on behalf of others, but “wrestling with God and spending long periods in consecrated fellowship with Him?” Not nearly enough.
Oh, Lord! Teach me how to pray, and make me want to pray MORE!"

"God understands what heavy hearts we have sometimes, especially when we are under a sense of sin. Satan says to us, "Why should you pray? How can you hope to prevail? In vain you say, "I will arise and go to my Father,” for you are not worthy to be one of His hired servants. How can you see the King's face after you have played the traitor against Him? How will you dare to approach the altar when you have defiled it, and when the sacrifice that you would bring there is a polluted one?"
It is good for us that we are commanded to pray, or else in times of heaviness we might give up.
If God commands me - unfit as I may be - I will creep to the footstool of grace.
Since He says, "Pray without ceasing," though my words fail me and my heart itself will wander, yet I will still stammer out the wishes of my hungering soul: "O God, at least teach me to pray and help me to prevail with You.”
This was important for me to read.
I spent most of my life living under the heavy burden of the law and experienced very little grace.
I remember being taught that if I am in sin I may as well not pray because God won't listen to me.
Scripture DOES say this: If I regard wickedness in my heart, the Lord will not hear me. Psalm 66:18
But when you read it in context …
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
And I will declare what He has done for my soul.
I cried to Him with my mouth,
And He was extolled with my tongue.
If I regard iniquity in my heart,
The Lord will not hear.
But certainly God has heard me;
He has attended to the voice of my prayer.
Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer,
Nor His mercy from me.


Thank You, Lord, for Your mercy toward me - a sinner!

This line:  If God commands me - unfit as I may be - I will creep to the footstool of grace.
WOW. This is what I needed as a child - a teen - a young adult - and every day since then!
I didn't think I was even allowed to be in the same room with God, let alone “creep to the footstool.” 
I stood on the outside looking in, drowning in guilt and shame, trying to hate my sin enough to repent and ask forgiveness so I would be welcome, once again, not only at the footstool - but at the THRONE. 
This section was like a waterfall of grace washing over my soul!
Grace, grace, God's grace, 
grace that will pardon and cleanse within; 
grace, grace, God's grace, 
grace that is greater than all our sin! 


"Praying breath is never spent in vain."
AMEN!

"To have prayed well is to have studied well." ~ Martin Luther
Love this!

"Still remember that prayer is always to be offered in submission to God's will. When we say that God hears prayer, we do not mean that He always gives us literally what we ask for. 
We do mean, however, that He gives us what is best for us and if He does not give us the mercy we ask for in silver, He bestows it upon us in gold. 
If He does not take away the thorn in the flesh, yet He says, "My grace is sufficient for thee."  
We never offer up prayer without inserting the clause ... "Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt."
This cannot be overlooked.
We can shake the gates of heaven and plead before the Throne until we are exhausted and spent … but unless it is the Lord’s will to grant our requests, He can, He will, and He does say, “No.”
He said “No” to His own Son when Jesus asked to be spared in the Garden of Gethsemane, so why do we expect Him to give us every desire of our hearts?
Sometimes our will matches His. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way? We must submit to Him and move forward in obedience.
For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts. Isaiah 55:8, 9

How much I enjoy this book!
And how thankful I am for godly men and women who record their thoughts and convictions about God and His Word so we may draw encouragement and strength from their experiences and push harder as we run the godly race toward the finish line. 
Spurgeon is, by far, one of my favorites!

9.07.2016

Even in death - he TRUSTED.

This is it.
A lovely bouquet of flowers from Tyler's memorial service is the last tangible reminder of a week filled with sorrow and joy.
JOY because a brother in Christ has seen the face of God and is a better theologian than anyone on earth. Sorrow because those left behind must learn how to live, without him.
In a few days the petals and leaves will wither and fall, and only memories will remain.
There are dozens of memories. Probably hundreds.
Some are sweet while others are laced with grief, and each one makes up the whole of what was Tyler's last week on earth.
I was only on the outside looking in, but the things I saw, the words I overheard, and descriptions of the affection shared between everyone who entered that room could fill a journal.
There are three memories that keep replaying in my mind's eye, and every time they do I am reminded of God's goodness and grace - His provision - and His love.

The first time I walked into the hospital room was the day the doctors told the family that Tyler had only a few days to live. All of the hope from the last nine months disappeared, and despair settled over every heart at the thought of losing this precious man. Tears flowed freely, hugs lasted for long minutes at a time, and a palpable silence hung in the room - because there was nothing to say. What IS there to say at such a time? Words are inadequate. Prayers seem empty and futile. Hope is gone.
And that is when the Lord ALWAYS shows up.

As I sat on a chair holding Mariah on my lap, my eyes fell on Tyler's parents who were leaning over him with tear-stained faces, speaking tender words of love to their son. I could not hear them, but I heard Tyler reply, "I love you." More words were spoken, and then in a clear strong voice, he said, "God is in control. God is in control."
I sat there - stunned.
Tyler was the one in the hospital bed trapped in a body that was in pain, and dying, yet he was comforting his parents in their grief. And - he was trusting God.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
I will n e v e r forget that moment.

I was not the only one who witnessed Tyler's peace, his strength, and his faith. Every person who entered that room was affected by him. Whether he spoke words of encouragement or prayed, they saw his heart - and they saw his God.
There was one group of people, however, who made a profound impact on me. The Marines.
They were young, just like Tyler, except for his Gunnery Sergeant who was clearly the leader and respected by all. These men entered the hospital lobby sober and then exited the hospital room with red eyes and somber expressions. One Marine literally dropped to his knees and wept when he looked upon the face of his friend.

These men are MARINES. They are trained for battle - trained to succeed - trained to adapt and overcome. But in those few minutes in the hospital room, they knew their brother would never stand beside them in uniform again, and they were helpless. And yet, they stood firm and served the only way they could. They talked, they laughed, they encouraged Mariah ... and treated Tyler with respect in death, just as they did in life.
I have always respected our men in uniform, but last week, as I watched Marine after Marine filter through the lobby of the hospital to honor a brother, my heart was filled with PRIDE.
Men in uniform. They matter.

My favorite memory of the week happened Friday morning.
More than once we discussed the need for Tyler and Mariah to have time alone together. Even when we made a "family only" policy for visitors, the two of them were never alone. They have faithful, loving, thoughtful parents, siblings, and extended family, so there was always someone in the room to meet the needs of this sweet couple.
On Friday it became very clear that they needed time alone. NOW.
Everyone agreed, and my role was to tell Mariah what was happening. She looked at me with her huge, brown eyes and said, "It's okay. Everyone doesn't have to leave." I took a deep breath, prayed for the Lord to give me grace and said, "Sister, it wasn't a question. I am in charge of this room now. Everyone is out - and you are going to have your husband all to yourself. I will come back in an hour, and if you are not ready, just say so and I will give you more time." She gave me a sheepish smile, and I left the room.
How I wish I had a camera at the ready when I poked my head back in over an hour later!
The room was quiet except for the faint sound of worship music playing in the background. Mariah had changed her clothes and looked beautiful with her long, brown, curly hair falling over her shoulders. She was sitting on the bed holding Tyler next to her like a mother holds her child, stroking his hair, and speaking softly to him. She looked up at me with a huge, contented smile on her face, gently shook her head and said, "No. I'm not ready."
My smile matched hers as I closed the door behind me.
Oh, friends! That image! It is etched in my mind. Not only because it was beautiful, but because it is a picture of God's faithfulness.
None of us knew Tyler would take his last breath on this earth at 10:15 that night - but the Lord did. He orchestrated the details. He gave them those two hours - alone - together. He knew what this young bride needed before she did, and He provided, as He always does, faithfully - and in His perfect time.

He is a good Father - even in the hardest moments we face - He is perfect, and He loves us.

Thank You, Lord, for the gift of this week. You welcomed another child into the splendor of heaven, and showed us through Tyler's unyielding trust in You that we can be as faithful in death as we are in life because there is no reason to fear when the Shepherd upholds us in the shadow of death. 


I've heard a thousand stories of what they think You're like
But I've heard the tender whisper of love in the dead of night
You tell me that you're pleased and that I'm never alone

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

I've seen many searching for answers far and wide
But I know we're all searching for answers only You provide
Because You know just what we need before we say a word

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by you
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us

Love so undeniable I can hardly speak
Peace so un-explainable I can hardly think
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
As you call me deeper still
Into love, love, love.

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You're a good, good Father
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are
And I'm loved by You
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am

You are perfect in all of Your ways
You are perfect in all of Your ways

9.05.2016

Are we doing it right - this thing called life?

"True wisdom is developed in the crucible of life's trials."

Better to go to the house of mourning
than to go to the house of feasting,
for that is the end of all men;
and the living will take it to heart.
Sorrow is better than laughter,
for by a sad countenance the heart is made better.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. Ecclesiastes 7:2-4


We never see this passage cross-stitched on pillows or placed on coffee mugs, but we should!
When we live in a perpetual state of activity and play, always moving, always doing, rushing from one event to the next - there is no time to think.

- What is my purpose?
- Where will I go when I die?
- Is my eternity secure?
- How do I spend my time?
- Am I investing in Kingdom work, or do I live for this world?
- Do I serve others? Consistently, faithfully, selflessly?
- If someone looked at my calendar, how much of my time is spent on self?
- For whom do I sacrifice my time, my desires, my money, my rights?
- If I died tomorrow would I leave any relationships broken and unrestored?
- Do the people I love KNOW I love them?
- Do I live a life of obedience before the Lord, or do I only dabble in spiritual things?
- When I die, will people remember me as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ?
- Do I make a difference? In the lives of others ... do I make life BETTER?

Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

We live next to a beautiful cemetery and a few times each year I take our children on a walk - which ends at the cemetery. We meander through the tree-lined paths enjoying the unique peace, looking at different headstones that catch our attention, and talking about the frailty of life. It is a sobering time, but one that must happen. It forces us to think. It forces us to face our fears of death. It forces us to imagine what life would be like without someone we love, what life would be like without us.

Scripture says it is BETTER to be in a house of mourning than a house of feasting. Not equal to - but better. And while we walk between the beautifully-etched headstones we talk about this.
We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. We were not created for our own pleasures and whims. Life is not about us - it is about Christ. What better place to be reminded of such truth than to stand in the midst of hundreds of graves that powerfully remind us that death is how life ends? It cannot be avoided. It cannot be stopped.
Death is the end of every man and the living take it to heart.
The question is - how long do we let it convict our hearts?

O Lord, what is man that you regard him,
    or the son of man that you think of him?
Man is like a breath;
    his days are like a passing shadow. Psalm 144:3,4

O Lord, make me know my end
    and what is the measure of my days;
    let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
    and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!  Psalm 39:4,5

My days are like an evening shadow;
    I wither away like grass.
But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever;
    you are remembered throughout all generations. Psalm 102:11,12

Lord, nothing is ever wasted in Your economy, including death. You have a purpose for every life You create whether they live 100 days or 100 years. We are so prone to fill our days, our hours, and our thoughts with things that have no value. They *seem* important until eternal perspective slaps us in the face and we are forced to figure out what "really matters." The things is, You have already shown us what matters in Your Word. Scripture is filled with instructions on how we are to live - and not one of those instructions includes living for Self. We have one purpose - to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Once we grasp that truth, we are commanded to love one another. Oh, Lord. Help us figure out how to balance the reality of death with the importance of LIFE. You came so we might have it abundantly ... please don't let us miss out on such riches! And most of all, Lord, may we become a people who cries out with every breath ... 
Let me live that I may praise You! Psalm 119:175

9.04.2016

All we need.

When there are no words, and we cannot even pray, Scripture is all we need.


Hear my cry, O God,
listen to my prayer;
from the end of the earth I call to You
when my heart is faint.
Lead me to the rock
that is higher than I,
for You have been my refuge ... Psalm 61:1, 2

Cast your burden on the Lord,
and He will sustain you;
He will never permit
the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: 
that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, 
to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple. 
For He will hide me in His shelter in the day of trouble; 
He will conceal me under the cover of His tent; 
He will lift me high upon a rock. Psalm 27:4, 5

Remember Your word to Your servant,
in which You have made me hope.
This is my comfort in my affliction,
that Your promise gives me life. Psalm 119:49, 50

You who have made me see many troubles and calamities
will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again.
You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. Psalm 71:20, 21

Whom have I in heaven but You?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides You.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:25, 26

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34: 17, 18

9.03.2016

He is HOME.


On January 3, 2015, I had the privilege of serving this young couple when they promised to love, honor, respect, and serve one another in sickness and in health until death parted them.
My only focus on that day of celebration and joy was them, and I never left Mariah's side.

For the last five days, Mariah allowed me to serve her once again as she faithfully and tenderly ministered to her husband in sickness and in death, and I never left her side.

Five days of doctors, nurses, pain medication, tears,  hugs, whispered conversations, questions about the future, visitors who left the room with red eyes and sober faces, prayer - lots of prayer, laughter, tender moments, shared meals, family, friends, hope, sadness, fear, acceptance, encouragement, 
and finally - surrender. 
Tyler is HOME.
And he has seen the face of God.

O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?
I Corinthians 15:55

Tyler was a follower of Jesus Christ and a loyal soldier in the Lord's army.
And now, he has received the crown of life - and entered into the joy of His Master.
Well done, faithful servant. Well done.

Thank You, Lord, for the beauty of this week. Your presence was evident as You walked with Tyler through the valley of the shadow of death. You never left him. You sustained him, encouraged him, and comforted him. He was at peace because You were there - as You promised You would be. 
Please, Lord, wrap Your arms around the families as they walk through the days and months ahead.
Strengthen them when they are weak. Lift them up when they are weary. Comfort them when the tears flow, and when they cry out to You because there are no words, hear them, and answer.
Thank You for creating Tyler and giving him 23 years on earth to make a difference in the lives of many - and for Your Kingdom. He was a faithful servant, as faithful in death as he was in life because He loved You and trusted that You would never leave him or forsake him. 
And You were faithful. Again.
How good it is to belong to a Father who loves us and comforts us in our deepest sorrows. 
You are such a good God, and we love You.