A Mist that Leaves a Mark: My Tribute to March 5

Death will be unexpected and expected all at once. Let’s choose to live in the courage to honor Christ in our body with the honest expectation that death is coming.

Just about everyone I know has them: dates on the calendar that come with a wave of remembrance and a quake of emotion. March 5th is one of mine, and now it comes with a double gut punch.

A little over 4 years ago, at the end of February 2015, my parents and I took an unplanned trip to Florida to check on my Grandad. A phone call told us that he was in the hospital and the “C” word, cancer, had been thrown at him and my Mammaw, but they couldn’t seem to explain much of what the doctors had said. It was all a bit mysterious so south we drove the very next day, a Saturday morning: February 28.

The next few days were a whirlwind. On Sunday morning, the news was confirmed to us that he had terminal cancer, excessive fluid in his lungs, and he was warned against leaving the hospital despite his insistence on busting out of there. By Sunday night, my siblings had flown down too- a tearful rescue mission coming together to bring Grandad home to Carmi, which was his final adamant wish. After a multitude of preparations, a fitful night’s sleep, and on the spot training on running a feeding tube, we were loading Grandad onto his beloved motorhome and headed north, to Carmi. The group of us ran on sheer adrenaline as we drove through the night and arrived safely home, not knowing how much time we had left. It was Tuesday.

Wednesday, my brother drove a couple of us to Evansville to hear more disheartening news from his local doctor- there were truly no options left. It was a hauntingly quiet drive back home in an ice storm. My sister and I stayed that night with my Mammaw and Grandad in the old twin beds we used to sleep over in as little girls. We wanted to help out and to be near my Grandad. Around 2am, we took our turn at my Grandad’s side in his favorite chair so my Mammaw could rest. We nervously talked to him about life and death and we asked him if he thought about heaven. So many prayers and so much courage had to be bolstered up to have those sacred conversations with this patriarch of our family.

These are moments etched in the muscle memory of my mind and heart. I can replay the reel of each day, each moment, like a childhood home video.

The next morning, my brother brought over Grandad’s office chair so he could potentially do some work from home- our attempts to make a death sentence feel more normal somehow. I was in the kitchen preparing the next round of meds when Grandad breathed his last breath. It was unexpected and expected all at once.

The date was March 5th. It had been less than a week since everything had seemed normal.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” James 4:14

Fast forward just a couple of months and that nasty “C” word lodged itself again in my daily thoughts and emotions. My dear friend, Rachel Short, had just discovered that her cancerous enemy had returned with a vengeance and the medical team at Mayo predicted she had maybe 6 months to live.

I want to tell you what I saw happen in that woman. As the fiery trial nearly engulfed her, she was not consumed; instead, she let it refine her. Those 6 months turned into almost 4 additional years by the grace of God. 4 years to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus. 4 years to grow as a godly wife and sister in Christ to Zach. 4 years to pour her whole heart, soul, and mind into precious Tenley Claire. 4 years to shine the light that was growing inside of her to a world that could not see what she could see.

Most people that you encounter want the glory. They want to be the ones that glow in their world. They want to be the sun in their universe. Rachel knew she wasn’t the sun. I think cancer has that effect on people- you more easily recognize how little control you actually have over your life- and it brings humility. Rachel knew she was a mirror with opportunities everyday to reflect back His glory and His goodness to the world around her. If I had to guess, this is how cancer really refined my friend Rachel. Her gaze was up at the Lord Jesus and then out toward the people in her life that she was able to love and serve. She took the time she was given and she let the days burn brighter and more full with Him.

Thus says the Lord: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.”

Jeremiah 9:23-24

I knew Rachel before cancer made a home in her earthly body. I had the privilege to teach with her and my daughter Ellie was blessed to have her as a kindergarten teacher the year she gave birth to Tenley Claire. We both just adored Rachel. She always had a smile, something to laugh about, and kept things light for me at school. I relished our visits at lunch, in the hallways, and especially on inservice days.

The Rachel I knew after cancer: she had a deeper, more abiding joy. The tidal wave of suffering had eroded away any superficial layers of who she thought she was and what she wanted out of life and beneath it lay a deep well where life in the Spirit bubbled up in contagious joy and peace. Christ had made a home in her and she had found an abiding home in Him. I think it was on the road of suffering where Rachel became her truest self, the one who people were drawn to only to find the irresistible grace of God shining through her.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-12

Cancer was like an enemy of the soul, that came back time and again to “steal, kill, and destroy” the life and light that was growing in Rachel (John 10:10). In that way, she was constantly carrying around within her body the death of Jesus, and yet she was becoming more and more alive to the eternal things of the Spirit of God than ever before. Death was at work in her, but it was displaying the gift of life to those around her and even those watching from afar. The one whom I am certain Rachel fought the hardest to show life was to her daughter, Tenley.

I remember talking with Rachel many times that summer of 2015 about the ticking clock and some of her hopes and dreams. She wanted more time to make memories with her daughter. She was always willing to undergo any option of treatment or clinical trial just to have more time to sow seeds of love and life into Tenley’s young life. It was a gift to watch Rachel treasure both the mundane moments at home with Tenley and making memories on vacation getaways with her little family. Death may have been a threat, breathing down the calendar pages, but life was abundantly blooming in its midst as joy overflowed even in times of hidden struggle against the beast of cancer.

Just like the rest of us, Rachel was just a jar of clay. The thing that set her apart, though, was that she let her afflictions continuously grow her insides deeper into the love of God. Her endurance in suffering demonstrated the power of God working in her earthen vessel and life radiated from the brokenness. As she relied on Christ Jesus to be her strength to keep fighting, more and more people were able to see the grace of God on display in this broken world.

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 4:15

If the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever (Westminster Catechism, Q1), then Rachel fulfilled the purpose in her alloted “mist” and even blazed a trail for others to follow, if they so choose. As she beheld the glory of the One who created her and saved her and loved her, Rachel’s short life glowed like a comet shooting across a dark sky. No one is left to wonder where her light came from, even as we miss the temporary glow of her smile and laugh. She left a bread-crumb trail through her years of living in suffering to point each of us to the only One who can sustain us through our days of toil and in our darkest of nights.

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

2 Corinthians 4:6

The one I’m most excited to watch follow the crumb trail? Tenley Claire. Rachel fought for more time to point her beloved mini-me to her Savior. God granted her more time than we ever expected back in 2015- 4 more years to plant seeds. Then, just like Jochebed surrendered the life of Moses as a very young boy; and just like Hannah surrendered the life of Samuel- Rachel ultimately had to entrust the life of Tenley to the eternally good & sovereign plan of God.

Recorded in the gospel of John 12:24, Jesus was trying to explain His impending death to His disciples by using a farming illustration. He said that if a kernel of wheat goes into the ground and dies, it will bear much fruit. I believe that we watched Rachel follow the pattern of her Savior in this way. And the one in whom I believe we will see the most fruit come from that kernel of wheat-Rachel’s life- will be that precious little mini-me.

I hope I get to watch Tenley grow up and be a Mommy one day, too. When I think about Tenley, I often think of another dear friend who has a few things in common with Tenley. As a child, she also suffered the loss of her Momma to cancer. It was painful for her to walk through the valley of death and loss of such an instrumental person in her life, but it was also enormously fruitful. My friend has an unbelievable gift of grace, perspective, and eternal wisdom now as a Mom that most women just can never find- her deep treasure gained through loss. When Jesus reigns over suffering and death, we can expect a rippling out of glory through the legacy to come. Somehow I just expect that Tenley’s life will be used in the Kingdom of God to echo the same glorious refrain that her Momma’s did: Glory to God in the Highest! He is worthy to be praised!

On March 5, 2019 Rachel’s earthly tent completed it’s mission and her eyes opened to the One in Whom she trusted through her pain and suffering. It was unexpected and expected all at once.

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; for
“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers, and the flower falls,
but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

1 Peter 1:23-25

Unfortunately, but maybe also fortunately, calendars are cyclical. March 5 will come for many of us again and again, reminding us of the “mistiness” of life. The past 4 anniversaries have held reminders of the sting and suddenness of cancer and death, but possibly from now on it will be a reminder to live….to really live for the things that are imperishable. Whether we are a great grandparent or a young mother or anywhere in between, death is a guarantee. But so is life, today. Cancer and death can be defeated when ordinary, broken jars of clay are committed to carrying around the death of Jesus so the life of Jesus can glow from the inside out.

Because of the fall of Man, we all feel the sting of death. For each of us it will come. Death will be unexpected and expected all at once. Let’s choose to live in the courage to honor Christ in our body with the honest expectation that death is coming. We can joyfully carry around the death of Jesus so that our mist will leave behind a reflection of the life of Jesus too.

“it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Philippians 1:20-21

Walking by Faith

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

~Proverbs 13:12~

I wonder how many adults are really just children who grew up with the heart sickness of too many hopes deferred- too many of life’s disappointments?  Do we eventually stop dreaming God-sized dreams and default instead to the more attainable, temporal man-sized dreams?  It takes a lot of courage to actually name your hopes and dreams. Then it requires even more vulnerability to find out what fuels those dreams-if it’s worthy.  Even further still, it takes a WILD heart to accept the call to walk by faith into the hallway of your God- sized dreams.  And what happens when the path seems terrifying and nothing like what we’d imagined?  Do we keep going or look for an alternate route?  How do we respond when we have to decide if we’re going to be led by our fears or our faith in Jesus?

January of 2017:: God began to awaken some deeper desires in my own soul.  As I wrote them out in my journal, I could see that they were hopes that could easily be disappointed.  They were the top 10 of the deepest longings of my heart. They were of God-sized proportion and I felt naive and silly even listing them, but somehow I felt like it was something God was wanting me to do.

February of 2017::  My friend Alex and I flew to Houston, Texas to attend a conference geared toward women in their 20’s and 30’s.  It was there that so many of those crazy paths of longing became further illuminated and the blazing flame of courage to walk those paths of faith toward whatever He had in store for my life were lit.  God was up to something and Alex and I could both sense that it was bigger than what we could see.  I’ll never forget the last session of the conference, one of the speakers read from Mark 10 where the blind man encountered Jesus and Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” (vs. 51).  To which the blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” and Jesus immediately healed him.  We were then challenged with the question of our own desires: what would we answer if Jesus asked us the same question he asked the blind man?  “What do you want me to do for you?”  Immediately, my answer came in a prayer: Lord, I want YOU to fulfill all you have called me to on this earth.  I want to see your glory here.  And somehow in that moment of surrender I knew my world had shifted.

Little by little in the weeks following, God began to reveal the steps of His plan for both Alex and me and for our families.  Sometimes they were intertwined and other times they were as distinct and different as the God given dreams He had placed within each of our own hearts.  But the one thing they had in common was that they forced us to walk by faith in the face of our fears.  We, along with our husbands, learned how to recognize the whispered soul invitations to step out in faith and say “yes” to the great adventures of God’s plan- even with butterflies in our stomachs and sweaty hands.  We cheered each other on and pushed each other toward the glories on the other side of our fear.  And I would say that each of our families began to taste a sampling of what it looks like to live in the throes of God-sized dreams.  Small yeses gradually leading to bigger ones.

Almost exactly a year ago now, those God whispers began to culminate into an invitation to take one of the biggest steps of faith I’ve ever taken.  And so the week of Spring Break 2017, Bart and I quieted our family’s schedule and made a committed effort to seek the will of God through prayer.  I had certainly seen the beautiful fruit that came on the heels of the surrendered and scary yeses which I had offered to God thus far.  I could retrace the path of His faithfulness over the past 2 decades of walking with Him and could see His goodness, even in the midst of the hard and terrifying; but was this really Him?  Does this even make sense?  I wrestled in prayer with my own human reasoning.

I recounted to God our 5 year and 20 year plan.  I reminded Him of the sacrifices this would require of us.  I made lists of my weaknesses and failures and told Him there must be someone else who was stronger and braver.  And at every attempt to talk Him out of it, He would remind me of those God-sized dreams.  He would remind me of my yearning to NOT waste my life.  He would remind me of that prayer I had prayed in Houston when I asked HIM to fulfill whatever He has called me to on this earth…..of how He was always sufficient when I was clearly not….of how He calls His people to the very things that they think they can’t do.  He would meet me there in prayer with reminders of how sweet the taste of His glory is….and how pleased He is when His people step off the predictable path of sight and into the surrender of walking paths illuminated only by faith.  He reminded me of the cross of Jesus.  He reminded me of all the multitude of ways that He has scandalously loved me and blessed me so far beyond anything I could ever earn or deserve.  He began to replace my fear with the supernatural courage of Christ.  He began to remind me that the road of Calvary led to His glory.  And isn’t that exactly what I want most- to see His glory both in eternity and right here during my life on earth, right here in Carmi, Illinois?

And so, yet again, with butterflies still churning up a nervous stomach, sweaty palms surrendered to His greater yes, we leaned into the wonder of His mysterious plan and we began to take the first of many new leaps of faith.  I could almost hear the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us with song:

I have decided to follow Jesus, No turning back, no turning back.  The cross before me, the world behind me.  No turning back, no turning back.”

It’s been a year now since we said yes to the beautiful journey of adoption….a year that has changed us in precious ways I can barely articulate.  And just like God has shown me over and over, He doesn’t reveal all the glories awaiting you until you step out in faith- they are treasures wrapped up for trembling hearts who step forward in spite of the fear.  “…without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)


These past 12 months have been wrought with continual whispered reminders to trust Him with this life of faith and the story that He is writing with our adoption and even beyond that–the One that is filled with God-sized dreams, carried crosses, and glorious rewards that exceed anything I could purchase with my very life.  He rewards faith best with the gift of more of Himself….the true fulfillment of every person’s deepest hope and yearning.  And so, though I have continually found myself to be weak and fearful along the journey, I can say with confidence that I have seen Him begin to answer that prayer I begged of Him back in Houston– Lord, fulfill your plans for my life! Do it, Lord Jesus!  For  you alone are worthy!

With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith. We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

~ 2 Thessalonians 1:11-12 ~

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In the Classroom with Jesus

I am a daughter, a sister, a friend, a wife, a mom, an aunt, and most importantly- a daughter of the King of kings.  Just like every woman, I wear any number of relational hats in any given day.  For me, in this present season of my life, another unique hat I get to wear is that of a teacher.  If I’m honest, the privilege and responsibility of that role was lost on me, due to my pride, for a good while.

You see, I completed three quarters of my teaching courses in college before I “jumped ship” into a potential career track where I felt I could ACTUALLY make a difference in this world.  I think God laughed that day!  It wasn’t that my own teachers hadn’t made a difference in my life (I never had a teacher I didn’t adore), or that I felt my Mom or Grandma (who were teachers) had failed to make a difference, or even that I doubted Bart (my husband-to-be) would change the world as a teacher.  In my mind, it was just too constricting for me- too many standards, too much teaching to a test, too much robotic methodology, & clearly no room for God to be God in a classroom.  Boy was I wrong!! It just took me awhile to become humble enough to learn that teaching is more about maintaining the posture of a student, with the God of all creation as your constant Mentor and Teacher.


I had watched Bart do it for many years- mold, shape, and influence lives for their good and God’s glory.  It was inspiring to me to talk with his students and/or read notes or cards they had written him and see what a difference his life had made in the course of theirs.  However, when I returned to the classroom after seven years as a stay-at-home-mom, it sure didn’t seem as glamorous.  In fact, it was downright HARD at times: exhausting, depleting, sometimes even depressing.  Even as close as I had been to the profession as a wife of a teacher and Mom of a student, I quickly realized that my perspective as an “outsider” was vastly different than the daily experience as an “insider”.  And so, it was after coming face to face with these insurmountable difficulties as a teacher that pride gave way to humility and this teacher learned how to be a student again.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

~Matthew 11:28-30~


It doesn’t take long, as a teacher, to come face to face with the depravity of man.  Yes, there is beauty and hope and life all around (I will get to that later), but sometimes it can feel like the the darkness and brokenness surrounding you and threatening to pull you in is utterly inescapable.  Now, I have no idea when Jesus will return (nor do I think anyone will know), but I do think these words of Paul sure do fit the reality of what we see as educators and people of planet earth:

“But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.  People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power.”

~2 Timothy 3:1-5~

I so often see one of two reactions to this reality.  On one end of the spectrum, we get angry, fearful, and hopeless- eventually looking for a plan or path to escape from the raw exposure to the brokenness.  On the other end of the spectrum, many of those who stick it out become utterly exhausted, cynical, joyless, and secretly counting down the days until the weekend, summer break, or retirement.  And if I’m being brutally honest, on some of my hardest days, I have swung all over that spectrum.

I have been so depleted and worn out from the depth, width, length, and breadth of the impossible needs around me, that I would start to wonder what other job I might be able to do that would allow me to actually be fruitful and make a measurable difference.  Or I might wonder what other profession might provide better earthly payment equivalent to the stress- either by paycheck or even by worldly acknowledgement, awards, or vertical movement.

It was in this place, of striving so hard to meet these desperate, endless needs, but always coming up short, that I finally became brave enough to admit what I probably already knew:  I am not enough!  But God is.

He knows it’s hard and He calls His people to DO HARD THINGS.  He’s not blind to the needs.  He sees all of them, individually and collectively, down to their very root.  And He is the only one with the lasting solutions.  My job is not to muster up “enough” everyday, but to take the very little I do have each day and offer it up to Him.  Just like the little boy who gave Jesus his basket full of 5 loaves and two fish.  All He expects me to do is to be like that little boy- humbly offer my meager, daily (sometimes moment by moment) offering that is clearly “not enough” to feed the crowds what they need; and then watch Him do what He does best- miraculously multiply the offering into what is truly needed for the day (“Give us each day our daily bread” Luke 11:3).

The beauty of Jesus, the Stream of Living Water, providing the sufficiency is that, as His servant and disciple, rather than not having anything left in the tank at the end of the day for my personal needs, He is always faithful to provide a basket full of exactly what I need.

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.”  So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.”

~John 6:8-12~


Another lesson my Teacher began to open my eyes to in the midst of teaching some of the most challenging kids was my own soul amnesia.  In the midst of defiance, disrespect, and pouring out into the lives of indescribably broken souls I would forget why I do what I do and I would forget who I once was.

In the face of the HARDEST moments, my frustrations with students who are being temporarily unbearable (although temporary can be relative) can make me blind to the reality that these young souls are image bearers of God, broken as that reflection is sometimes, and they have a soul that is immortal.  They may be causing me untold irritation, causing my own “lack” to rise up within me, but first and foremost, He has called me to this: to be a jar of clay filled with His light and shining into the darkest of places.  

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body.  So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

~2 Corinthians 4:7-12~

We who have been saved are also so prone to forget that we were once slaves to sin, alienated from God, and destined for wrath.  And in those moments of forgetting, its so tempting to grow prideful and frustrated with people rather than reflecting the love and grace that our Heavenly Father has freely granted to us.

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions...For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God not by works, so that no one can boast.  For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

~ Ephesians 2:4-6, 8-10~

And in our role as teachers, we have ample opportunity every single day to be His handiwork among lost, eternal souls.  When we focus on how undeserving we are of the grace we have received through the cross, it is so much more natural to respond to the impossibly HARD moments with His grace:

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

~Colossians 3:12-15~

Sometimes, He has shown me, that He will reveal the hard places kids & families have been through simply to teach me how to pray for them.  What a glorious privilege it is to potentially be the ONLY person on the planet who might be crying out to God on behalf of a student or a family in need.  And, to think, I used to believe there was no room for God in a classroom.  He is there, in all of His glory, to the extent to which His people call upon His name.


Another pitfall the Teacher began to reveal to me was the inward battle for earthly compensation: be it financial, a sincere pat on the back, acknowledgement, or even a break- my earthly mindset was crying out for something!  But He has taught me to be thankful that this is not how our educational system is currently set up.  And since it isn’t, I was able to learn some precious lessons that will mark me forever.

First of all, many of the tasks of an educator are LARGELY unseen by the eyes of the masses.  And so, since it is unseen by all eyes except God’s, I began to learn how to do my job for His approval alone and not the world’s notice.  What freedom, what joy, and what a blessing to live out of that place.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,  since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

~Colossians 3:23-24~

And so, I began to hunger and thirst for these rewards from the Eternal God more than the fleeting approval of man and earthly compensation.  Isn’t it typical, that this God of the Upside Down Kingdom prefers gracious deeds done in secret rather than tooting our own horn via social media?

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

~Matthew 6:3-4~


And finally, I began to see what a privilege it is to have the daily opportunity to pour time, energy, grace, patience, love, kindness, gentleness, and prayers on many kids’ lives, who may never even show gratitude in the least- and who will be the least likely to ever pay me back.  The world around make shake their head and think, “What a waste of an investment!” or, “How foolish to give your life away in such a way!” But just knowing Jesus sees, smiles, and stores up eternal treasures is more than I could ever ask.  In fact, my Teacher began to teach me to envision giving myself away each day to Him who was masked in the faces of the “least of these” who the rest of society would consider unworthy.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me. 

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’”

~Matthew 25:31-40~

I often wonder how long God will allow me the privilege to teach.  It’s not for the faint of heart- that’s for sure- and if you honestly ask any school personnel about the challenges, you might get an earful.  But how I pray God would spark a revolution of teachers who see their jobs as a calling with opportunities for eternal investment and rich heavenly rewards.

Everyday it seems the gap grows wider between the those of us who are privileged with many of the things we take for granted- access to know God, warm homes, loving families to come home to, bellies full of food, clean water, endless opportunities for entertainment and growth- and those who will never know those earthly privileges.  For now, the thing I probably love most about my job is the constant, humble reminder it  gives me that I have been entrusted with SO much and so I am called to scandalously pour out what I’ve been given.  I don’t want to be caught as a hoarder in this life.

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

~Luke 12:48~

Doing hard things with hard people is good for us.  I think we are most like Jesus as we learn to walk into those places without fear and without a calloused heart.  When we take His yoke and learn from the Greatest Teacher- the One who came to earth to show us the Way- I truly believe we will see our own lives turn into vessels of healing, light, and freedom for the captives all around us.  What a glorious hope and a glorious calling!  And maybe, just maybe, as we offer our lives to “the least of these” we will not only be rewarded in heaven, but will experience life abundantly and healing in ways we didn’t even know we needed.

If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
    with the pointing finger and malicious talk,
 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
    and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
    and your night will become like the noonday.
 The Lord will guide you always;
    he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
    and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like a spring whose waters never fail.
 Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
    and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
    Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.”

~Isaiah 58:9-12~



Building a Legacy

Two prayers that were continually on my tongue and swimming through my thoughts during our season of pruning went something like this:  Lord, give us enough light for the step we’re on and lead us in Your paths…..Lord, continue to work this together for good and redeem what still seems lost and broken.

In the infancy years of my faith, the book of Proverbs became a sort of daily guidebook for my life in Christ when other parts of the Bible seemed a bit too daunting and confusing to venture into.  Therefore, during the season of waiting and watching for the Lord’s plans to play out, settling into the wise counsel of Proverbs 3 felt like throwing a cozy blanket around my weary and wandering soul:

My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
 for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you.

 Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
 So you will find favor and good success
    in the sight of God and man.

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.

 Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
 It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment to your bones.

 ~ Proverbs 3:1-8 ~

Simple truths to hold onto: bind love and faithfulness around me, ask Him to write His ways upon my heart, TRUST IN HIM, don’t trust in my own understanding of what surrounds me, acknowledge/seek/submit to Him, humbly acknowledge my own lack of wisdom, resolve to fear the Lord above ALL things.  And the more I wrapped up in this cozy nugget of wisdom, I could see that adding these truths to my life equaled out to a result worth pursuing: long lasting peace, favor/good success in the sight of God and man, straight paths, healing and refreshment.  We still weren’t exactly sure how to get there from where we stood, but as the months passed, Bart and I became more and more resolved to walk by faith and trust in His wisdom rather than our own earthly perspective.


One thing became very clear to us as we sought the Lord and pleaded with Him for His wisdom and light for the path:  we were called to be builders.  By this time, we already had Isaac; and Ellie was now beginning to make her appearance known through my swelling abdomen.  It wasn’t that we hadn’t previously seen children as a gift.  We did truly treasure our role as parents.  However, we began to see that, although our desire and perspective of having children was pleasing to Him, as we were beginning to build our legacy on this earth, we had been using the wrong blueprints.

One of the first blooms of beauty to sprout from the pruning season was a newfound vision & desire for living life with an eternal perspective: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past.  Only what’s done for Christ will last.” (C.T. Studd)  Previously, we really did love God with a sincere love; but the majority of our decisions (& therefore the path of our life) looked like the rest of the world with a little “Christian-ese” mixed in.  We were in need of the Refiner’s Fire to burn away our old blueprints and lead us to His.

We began to get a glimpse of the path we had been on- our current blueprints for building, and what kind of house it was going to be, what sort of legacy it was going to leave.  It wasn’t a bad view at all: we aimed to raise good Christian kids, kids who would make good grades, go to college, eventually obtain a good job, get married to a loving spouse, and raise a family, etc.  We hoped our arrows were headed in a good direction.  But really, it was just the Christian version of the American Dream.  Our plans were more about our glory, our happiness, and were guided by an earthly kingdom- they did not bring glory to God.

As we leaned into Him-His wisdom, His truth, His plans- we began to see that our old blueprints weren’t wide enough, deep enough, high enough, or long lasting enough.  They didn’t leave room for God to be glorious in our midst.  They didn’t factor into the equation the reality that human souls are eternal- outlasting this temporary earthly tent. And the end result was a “house” that may be enviable on this earth, but God’s desire is something so much nobler and more magnificent for His children- a legacy grafted into His Kingdom that lasts throughout eternity.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

~ Isaiah 55:8-9 ~

However, as it is written:

What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him

 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

~ 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 ~

And so, over and over again, we began to humbly, repentantly acknowledge our need for His wisdom, His guidance, His Word to guide us in building our family with His Blueprints.  We knew we didn’t want to have regrets about the kind of foundation we laid, but we knew we were such slow learners.  We could see that we had worldly habits and thought patterns to uproot and even more glorious plans to discover and press into the soil of our legacy.  Our minds needed desperately to be renewed.  This was clearly a huge priority and as we prayed, we both began to see that, at least for a time, this calling deserved more quality time and attention than our lives were presently allowing.

It was then that we knew it was time for me to begin saying “no” to many extras so I could give the better “yes” to this season of laying a solid foundation.  So, as we said “no” to two incomes, I said “yes” to a tight budget & clipping coupons; I said “no” to making visible impact and “yes” to being hidden away to invest in the precious souls who were entrusted to us; I said “no” to pursuing personal dreams and ambitions and “yes” to uninterrupted presence at home; I said “no” to the affirmation of the world around me and “yes” to unacknowledged repetition of serving.  Philippians 2:3-7 became my mantra as I transitioned into my calling:

 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”


So, here I was- a full time Mom, surrendered to the holy and lowly calling of shepherding these sheep we had been given; I was postured to implement the new set of glorious Blueprints for Building a family, that was obviously going to be revealed in process as I walked it out.  I thought I was ready to be their teacher.  Little did I know I was just beginning to learn myself.

First of all, I had to learn how to find Him in the mundane routines of my simple day.  I had been preconditioned to only see the glorious in the bigger, newer, better, productive pursuits of life.  Slowly, but faithfully, He began to break through the boring tasks of my day with His Presence.  I started to sense Him leading me to invite Him into the small, the repetitious, the mindless tasks, the parts of my days I knew no one would care about.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.

~ 1 Corinthians 10:31 ~

As I began to learn from Him how to do all things for the glory of God, He began to show me His glory in all of it.  I clearly remember the day I was making a PB&J sandwich for Isaac and getting such a deeply rooted sense of joy, knowing I was making that sandwich for God’s glory and it brought Him pleasure. I knew He was teaching me how to be faithful in the small things.


Second, as I began to know and rely on His Presence in the hidden spaces, He began to show me that- despite the regular temper tantrums, battles for toys or attention, and overall in-my-face displays of sin that my kids were capable of- He loved my children with an unfailing, never ending, scandalous love.  Just like He loved me, His daughter, in spite of my sin.  And so, I learned to see my kids as little mirrors, that God was ever using to reflect back to me my own wandering, selfish, prideful, sin-sick heart.  So my Loving Heavenly Father was all the while modeling to me, as my parent, how to balance my ever swinging pendulum of grace and truth, long suffering and discipline.

“Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

~ Hebrews 12:9-11


Third, He began to teach and remind me that the blueprints for my kids’ lives, personalities, and plans were hidden in Him.  As much as I might have certain hopes, plans, and desires for each of my children based on my perspective and dreams, He is the Creator of their very existence.  He “created [their] inmost being; ….knit [them] together in [their] mother’s womb.” (Psalm 139:13)  He knows how their very DNA is formed.  “And even the very hairs of [their] head are all numbered.(Matthew 10:30) If he continually keeps track of the hairs on their head, then surely He can keep track of the moment by moment, day by day, year by year plans set into His eternal calendar.  When their lives take an unexpected curve, I can trust in His sovereign plan. He doesn’t need me to micromanage every detail of my kids’ lives.  However, He does invite me to be an active participant to partner with Him in the fleshing out of His glorious plans for my kids’ lives to bring Him glory.  But this will only be revealed to me to the extent to which I am plugged into Him through prayer.

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

~ 1 Peter 1:3-4 ~


Fourth, I noticed a natural tendency in my own heart to want to insulate and protect my kids from struggle, pain, and trouble.  When undesirable situations would arise, I would put on my Miss-Fix-It goggles and try to do everything in my power to create smooth pathways for my children to walk upon.  Over and over, my Heavenly Father would have to retrain my heart to the truth of the Upside Down Kingdom: without the training that trials produce, my children will live incomplete, immature lives, and will be left lacking in the end.   I desperately desire the fruit that will come into my children’s lives as a direct result of the struggles they face in this life.

 “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. …..Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

~ James 1:4, 12 ~


Fifth, God began to show me that, in doing our part to build our legacy {His legacy, for His glory}- this multi-generational lineage of faith I found in God’s Blueprint for Building a Family- I had to be an active pursuer and possessor of the eternal treasures that I most desire to give my children.  How can I ever hope to pass down these eternal treasures if I do not make it a non-negotiable priority in my own daily life?  Somehow, this was all the motivation I needed to turn hopeful goals into discipline, then into a life that is continually transformed by the daily delight of walking with God.

If I want my children to pass onto their children and their children, etc. the greatest commandments, then the cornerstone of my earthly existence should be an unashamed pursuit of the love of Jesus and love of others.  I want my children to have no doubt of my love for Jesus and His Word.  I want them to witness a life given in sacrificial service to others in the name of Jesus- not as a duty, but as a delight.    If I miss the mark in a hundred other areas of parenting, yet get this one right- I still win; but if I distractedly pursue excellence in a hundred other earthly endeavors and miss this one, I risk losing it all.  This is not something I want to gamble with.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

~Matthew 22: 37-38 ~


Not everyone has to go through such an intense, focused period of rewiring like our family did.  He just knew our hearts, especially mine, and how much regret I would carry if I didn’t get on a path to put first things first.   I’m thankful that repentance, grace, and growth is available to us every single day because I am still on this journey.  We don’t have to get pressured up to get it all perfect, but I surely don’t want to waste a day building something that won’t last.  When this fleeting mist of a life is complete, there is only one investment that will go with us- eternal souls that have been covered by the blood of the Lamb.

There is nothing I think I could dream up that would have more value or be more of a thrill than pouring my life out on the altar of knowing Him and bringing others into the riches of knowing Him, too.  I imagine that I only have a very minuscule role in this grand Building of souls in the Eternal Kingdom of God, but I have become determined to build my part, in my generation, according to His Blueprint and not my own; this will be the greatest privilege of my life.

God only knows how many times I have prayed that He would use me on this earth for His glory, and specifically in my own family line.  He alone could count the times I’ve pleaded with Him that He would bring a mighty wave of salvation and a zealous pursuit of His glory throughout our family line, leading straight to the Day when every knee will bow before His Throne!  Maybe one day in heaven He’ll let me watch the movie reel of time passing as one generation declares His glorious deeds to the next, each generation utterly captivated by love for Jesus…will each heart just fall like dominoes before His glory?

We will not hide them from their children,
    but tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
    and the wonders that he has done.

~ Psalm 78:4 ~


As I dream of that day, I try to remind myself daily to keep my head in the game and keep my priorities straight.  I continue to lean on Him for the plan each day- the grace to keep my eyes on this unseen God and to keep pointing my kids to Him above all things.  These children still in my care, these eternal souls to shape….eventually it will be time to shoot them out like arrows into the world to do their part to bring glory to God on this earth.  And then it will be their turn to carry the torch of faith into a dark world.  Give us the grace and wisdom, O Lord, to build this house according to your blueprint and the courage to surrender our plans to you.


Unless the Lord builds the house,
    the builders labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the guards stand watch in vain.
 In vain you rise early
    and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
    for he grants sleep to those he loves.

 Children are a heritage from the Lord,
    offspring a reward from him.
 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
    are children born in one’s youth.
 Blessed is the man
    whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
    when they contend with their opponents in court.

~ Psalm 127 ~



Sometimes, right in the middle of an ordinarily sweet life- not perfect, but good- unexpected trials come crashing onto the scene with such force that you wonder if you will ever know normal again.  As far as you could tell, you were bouncing along, living a good life- one that would please God, or so you thought- serving Him and seeking Him, bearing fruit, and mostly experiencing only minor trials of which to grumble about.  And then without warning, the blows come with a 1, 2, 3 punch.  Life as you have known it- safe, comfortable, blessed- has unraveled.  How can this unseen God, that you have trusted and grown to love, be good?  How could He be all powerful and worthy of worship if He could allow such pain, confusion, and loss to crash into your life like a wrecking ball?

These were some of the questions I had to wrestle through during a particularly hard season of life.  Looking back, Bart and I refer to this season as the trifecta of trials.  I have no doubt that Satan’s goal was to flatten us, to turn the lights out on our faith.  I still get stinging tears and a lump in my throat when I look back to those years.  I can see the dark days, the rubble that lay all around us- too quiet, but raging with emotion and emptiness; the paralyzing mess of relationships, brokenness, and dreams that had been all but completely obliterated in nearly every category of our lives.  Then as if to kick us while we were down, the difficult loss of a baby that we had prayed for.  If I reflect back on it for too long, I can feel the hollow places in my soul of not knowing quite how to move forward.  Life as we knew it was no longer recognizable.  I spent so many hours of so many days just pouring out my confused and bleeding heart on pages- journals overflowing with wounded words, questions that had no earthly answers, and stained with tears that only God saw falling.

I had read Jesus’ warnings to me, recorded in Holy Writ:

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

– John 16:33 –

But somehow amid the fruitful life of loving and serving God and placing each new puzzle piece of life in its proper place, we naively assumed we were positioned to escape these kinds of troubles.  Had we unknowingly disappointed God or brought this unraveling upon ourselves?  How could a life of following Jesus lead us into such painful seasons of deep heartache?  And where was the overcoming part?  It sure didn’t appear that anything good could come out of this season of despair for us and for the numerous bleeding hearts all around us.  How could this be the Kingdom of God?

Each day I can remember wrestling through these questions with God.  Bringing my raw heart before Him was so hard- my flesh wanted to numb the pain with new tasks or worldly pleasure or maybe to just run away from this God who I was questioning…. but I was desperate for a hint of light in this dungeon of darkness.  I would sit in the living room of our house in Mt. Carmel and pour over Scripture searching for answers and for drops of hope to cling to, or go for a long walk/run and pound out the overwhelming emotions.  Bart would get up early in the morning and wrestle it out with God- running into the arms of Jesus in the high school hallways.  There was nothing glamorous about these days.  Our house was not full of laughter and the same bubbly joy that was our old normal.  We continued to wonder how any good could come out of these ashes, but God was faithful to grant us the dose of strength needed to get us through one day at a time.

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
    whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
 As they pass through the Valley of Baka {the Valley of Tears},
    they make it a place of springs;
    the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
 They go from strength to strength,
    till each appears before God in Zion.”

~ Psalm 84:5-7 ~

We were so weak in this season.  We did not know where all of this would lead.  We didn’t know where life was headed.  We struggled through all the whys and hows and the continual swirl of unanswered questions.  But one thing we were learning was to set our hearts on pilgrimage.  This valley of tears, called life, was not our home.  This truth became our lifeline.  Whereas pre-wreckage, we trusted that we were ultimately heaven bound, we didn’t necessarily live our earthly days and decisions out of that place.  The shambles we were surrounded by required us to set our eyes more deeply and constantly on the hope of redemption- we began to long for the day when all the brokenness and pain of this world would be swallowed up forever.  There was no quick and easy fix.  There was no way we could continue to live out of a false sense of hope that life would move along smoothly if we just followed Jesus.

Little by little, He began to show us His pathway through this valley.  This world is not our home.  We are just passing through this earthly life: foreigners and strangers in this broken world, looking for a country all our own, in heaven (Hebrews 11:13-14).  And we began to look more intently at Jesus as our model for walking through our trials:

“He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”  ~ Isaiah 53:3 ~

 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”  ~ Hebrews 12:2-3 ~


As we looked to the cross, we found a path to hope and healing.  There was no going back to how things had been before, but could there be another hidden pathway through this valley of tears?  Could these scars have purpose that I couldn’t yet see?  Would I be able live forward without a cloud of fear of when the next blow would hit? I felt so vulnerable.  Did I have even a mustard seed of faith to believe that He could still yet bring any beauty out of these ashes?  If God’s good plan of redemption for mankind included the suffering, pain, and earthly scorn of His One and Only Son, could I believe that he could still be good in the midst of my own suffering?

Every day I felt tested, a new opportunity to wake up and decide where and in whom I was going to cling to for the strength to keep fighting for hope.  God’s Word was like my manna, my Bread of Life, my healing balm for the wounds still very open.  Verses that I used to read through and apply to everyday inconveniences or annoying mishaps suddenly had new life- giving me strength, footing, and some sense of direction:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  ~ James 1:2-4 ~

 “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. ”  ~ 1 Peter 1:6 ~

We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.”           ~ Acts 14:22  ~

So this messy trifecta of trials and the waves of aftershocks were meant to test me, to refine me, and to be a hallway to walk through on my journey to my final destination.  As painful as the days continued to be, they were not without purpose.  They were meant to reveal the size of my faith- as small as it was- and to grow it, mature it, deepen it, and to make me more like my Savior.  The Refiner’s Fire was burning away what remained of my selfishness, pride, lust for worldly accomplishment, and desire to store up treasures on earth.

It was with those truths tucked deep inside of my heart, I took the tiniest steps of radical faith to consider these trials to be joy- believing that my Loving Father must see what is hidden from my sight.  And with my sights set squarely upon the unseen, upside down Kingdom of God- I began to find freedom from the anxiety and fear of the trials that might still lay ahead.  This earth is not my home.  I am a stranger here.  In Him, I can walk through whatever valleys lay ahead of me and know that His grace will be sufficient for me there too.  His Presence can turn any valley of tears into a place where I can find pools of refreshing water simply because He is there with me.

All over our house (above my kitchen sink, my bathroom mirror, my nightstand) and in the dashboard of my car, you would’ve found the evidence of holy soul medication:

” Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  ~ 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ~

Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him”  ~ Job 13:15 ~

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  ~Psalm 34:18 ~

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”  ~ Romans 8:18 ~

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  ~Romans 8:28 ~

And I would gulp down these truths, deep into my heart, mind, and soul.  I began to see that my eyes had been so previously fixed on seizing what is seen- here and now on this earth- that I was missing out on the eternal weight of glory that is unseen and eternal.  Somehow these trials were given the “yes” from God to enter my life, not as a punishment, but for some sort of eternal good- lasting forever, and creating more value than if life had continued on the path I thought was best.  I may not see all the glory revealed on this earth, but I can yet hope in Him to see it when I arrive at Home.  I learned that He was my ever present comforter when I was crushed in spirit- this unseen God drew near to me.  I began to put more and more stock of my heart, time, and treasures in heaven, where the eternal glory lies- where thieves cannot steal from me and moths cannot destroy (Luke 12:33).

He changed me, us, in a multitude of ways.  Carrying brokenness and so many shreds of an unraveled life will do that to a person.  And after many days of plodding through that valley, you look back and see that He has actually carried you.  Your heart feels bigger, more tender, more aware of the needs of this broken world.  Your eyes seem to have changed too- you see how fleeting this life really is and how we only get this one chance to spend it on the things that will truly count in eternity.  You look down at your scars and realize that those are just the beauty marks to remind you of the ways you’ve been able to fellowship with Jesus in your own suffering.

The teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount become truths that actually make sense to you now:

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.

~ Matthew 5:3-5 ~

Somehow, in His upside down Kingdom, it is not those who always have a smooth ride through life that are considered the most blessed.  Those are the ones who have already received their treasure in this life.  But for those who have suffered, mourned, and been broken down by this life- God has hidden treasures for these…hidden revelation of glory yet to be seen.  And in this way, our good, good Father gets the final victory over the sin, brokenness, and death of this world.  It is not a fairy tale- One Great Day, even the ashes that remain will be turned into beauty.  This is our great hope that we cling to as we journey through this Valley of Baka.


It wasn’t until much time had passed that He began to show me that sometimes, right in the middle of an ordinarily sweet life of fruitfulness, the Gardener comes and cuts away even perfectly good branches.  And for a season, the once blooming tree shows no signs of beauty or life.  And maybe the tree even wonders what just happened to it.  The tree was doing what it was created and planted to do- grow fruit.  What the tree doesn’t know is that the Gardener has a plan for the tree to bear even more fruit in another season.  And so, because the tree has a wise, good, and sovereign Gardener, the time of pruning must come.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.  He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 

~ John 15:1-2 ~








I remember the first time my parents took us to the summit of Pikes Peak in Colorado.  At 14,000ft +. I knew the views were spectacular, even as a young elementary student.  Several things I remember about that trip: the cold thin air, the colorful windbreakers we put on as we climbed closer to the top, the winding narrow roads up the side of the mountain, and the rails that kept us from falling down the steep side of the mountain overlook.  I don’t so much remember being scared of the edge.  In fact, I think we have several pictures of us standing right up next to the rails with the spectacular Rocky Mountain views behind us.  I was young and I was fearless.

Flash forward to the summer of 2016 in Pittsburgh, PA.  We went up the Monongahela Incline with our kids and Bart’s parents to take in the skyline of Pittsburgh below.  However, the scene played out much differently on this cliff.  My legs were paralyzed from moving closer than 15 feet from the edge.  I simply could not walk my toes up to the edge like I had done at Pikes Peak.  My imagination only had room for one view: a tumble down the edge of the cliff.  As my palms got sweaty, I became more and more ready to gather my chicks back into the incline to go back down where my footing was sure- back to my comfort zone.  Clearly, I was no longer the same young and fearless girl.

Unfortunately, this contrasting image of me at the peak of a cliff is telling of another story inside of me as well.   This time it is a story of unseen glories, views into the supernatural wonders of God’s kingdom being built in us and all around us, True Beauty for our souls to behold, a story of abundant and lasting prosperity, and fruitfulness.  It is a question being asked inside every person’s soul every single day: Is the risk of stepping outside of my comfort zone to see the possibility of glories unseen worth it?  Or am I content to risk missing out on the unknown glory for the sake of what I know to be comfort?


It’s noteworthy how many times the Bible uses agriculture to teach us eternal truths about how the Kingdom of God works.  I often tease because Bart is an Ag-wannabe, but I too have become captivated by the lessons to be learned via study of the laws of growing things.  The growth of trees from tiny seeds has become a peculiar source of interest to me in recent months.

In the middle of the Bible is the book of Psalms- a book of poetry, songs, and prayers to God.  The very first chapter of this beautiful book eludes to the fact that mankind has some similarities to trees.  And not only that, but He uses trees to instruct us on how we can yield fruit and be prosperous in our earthly lives:

“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.”

Psalm 1:1-3


God is the Ultimate Gardener with more than just a green thumb.  His desire is to bless us, in Christ, with His divine favor and show us the way toward true soul prosperity- the kind that lasts all the way throughout eternity.

I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. ”  -John 15:1

Any gardener knows that to grow a plant, you first have to put a tiny seed into the ground.  In time, with patience and proper care, under the dark covering of the soil the seed starts to germinate and then sprout.  Eventually it pops through the soil, displaying the evidence of what has been happening underground.  Once a seedling emerges from the soil and begins to show signs of maturity and growth, experienced gardeners recognize it is time to transplant the young plant into a more spacious place to encourage healthy growth.

When I became a believer in Jesus, I was like that tiny seed underground.  God was doing a very significant work in me under the cover of the dark soil.  In His time, as I stretched up towards the Son, I began to emerge up from the hidden place.  My Gardener was good to tend to me with the ingredients that are just right for a tender seedling.  However, at the proper time, it was time for a transplant.  In my story, this timing coincided with the time I left home and went off to college.


In some ways, when we are transplanted, we are like Abram:

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation,  and I will bless you; I will make your name great,  and you will be a blessing.”

Genesis 12:1-2


In order to make our lives fruitful for His glory, there comes a time we have to be uprooted from our comfort zone and planted into a rich bed of soil that He prepares specifically for us.  If we stay planted where we’ve always been, we risk stunting our growth and missing out on the fruitfulness and prosperity God wants to produce in and through our earthly lives.

When I look back at my college years and early years of marriage, I cannot help but be filled with overwhelming gratitude.  At the time Bart & I knew that we were blessed, but I’m not sure we knew the extent to which God was pouring out His goodness and grace over this particular season of our lives.  We attended a secular college, but God made sure to plant us in rich, fertile soil that was fed by streams of Living Water, where our roots could grow strong in Him.  For a few years it was as if we were enrolled in God’s greenhouse of growth alongside numerous other believers who became dear friends.  Our Gardener had provided a perfectly diverse blend of people and opportunities to help us mature in the ways of His Kingdom- and often way outside of what was normal to us.  At different occasions, I wondered if our greater purpose during this season was to behold the glory of our invisible King and less about gaining any kind of worldly progress.  And yet, without us noticing, He was causing a different kind of progress to take place.

Many times when you are planting a plant or a tree in a new place, you will break up the “root ball” with your hands.  This may seem like you are harming the plant by tearing a bit at that established root system, but in reality, you are preparing the plant for optimal growth and nourishment in a new environment.  We are often so afraid to branch out and reach for the godly relationships that would help prosper our souls.  Sometimes even as believers we are afraid to tear away at the root system that we have grown comfortable with for so long, not recognizing that the soil we are currently planted in is stunting our growth and is causing our branches to be dry and fruitless at best…..producing bad fruit at the very worst.


This is where the cliff analogy is helpful to me.  I fear that there are many of us who profess belief in Jesus but very few who are willing to risk the scary uprooting to be planted in more fertile soil.  We may have had moments in our youth, like my Pikes Peak moment- fearless of stepping past the threshold of our comfort zone.  At one point in our story, maybe we were a young plant, popping through the soil, growing up toward the Son.  And we were comfortable, safe in that place.

Until the Gardener started shifting things around a bit.  We enjoy this little pot we’ve grown into.  We like this soil and the pieces our roots have attached to.  This is a safe place to stay.  The thought of being uprooted- whether physically going somewhere new, or being replanted relationally with a lifestyle shifting toward those Living Waters- all of it makes your hands sweaty.  All we can imagine is a tumble down that cliff.  So, like I did in Pittsburgh, we reject the uprooting.  We close ourselves off from the possibility of beholding greater glories, growing deeper roots, and more abundant fruit on our life branches.  NO, we reason: a quick glance at a safe distance is best.  Control is best. Moving any closer to the edge is dangerous and won’t people just think I am foolish if I change NOW?  And so the Gardener lets us stay in the plastic pot when He created us to be planted by streams of Living Water.  

Each and everyday the invitation comes from deep inside of our souls.  We know we were made for something more.  But as we “grow up” we suffocate that yearning.  We stop growing altogether.  The risk seems too great, too far outside of our comfort zone, too far removed from the visible kingdom we’ve built around ourselves.  We stifle the questions stirring in our hearts.  We like the way we’ve always done things.  We often get so filled up with superficial glories and busied with earthly routines that eventually we don’t even remember what it feels like to behold the One and Only Glory that can take our breath away.  And so we live the days and seasons of our lives mostly fruitless in regards to God’s kingdom and pleasure.  We are given this one mist of a life and, for fear of stepping over our threshold of comfort, we waste it away on earthly checklists and temporary treasures.

But to those that can find the courage to say “yes” to the possibility of seeing greater glories, more abundant fruitfulness, and deep soul prosperity- these tender plants will surrender to the uprooting and replanting.  And these “will be called the trees of righteousness [strong and magnificent, distinguished for integrity, justice, and right standing with God], The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3)

And everyday, the choice is ours.


We would be wise to heed to the warning found in first verse of Psalm 1: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers.”  In contrast, we are counseled that if we want to be a tree planted firmly by streams of water, yielding fruit in season, and prospering in all we do- we will be people who, “delight in the law of the Lord, and on His law he [habitually] meditates day and night.

When we allow our Gardener to replant us, opening ourselves to new relationships and new experiences that might help us to find greater delight in God’s Word and ways, we are blessed.  Our souls begin to breathe fresh life, yielding good fruit, and naturally producing green leaves to the glory of God.

After the replanting in my own life, God was so faithful to surround me with people who were several steps ahead of me in their walk of faith.  These were people who sincerely loved God, loved His Word, loved to worship Him in Spirit and truth, and who made themselves available to mentor and disciple me in my own faith walk.  They helped me understand God’s Word and lived so rooted in Him that I could easily see the good fruit it was producing in their lives.  It made me yearn for this soul prosperity in my own life and open myself to the vulnerability of asking questions of how to get on that path for myself.  God used these more mature believers as stakes around my trunk to help me grow stronger as I was just beginning to see the blooms of fruit in my own life.

In God’s economy, this fruit comes by way of the inner man, the spiritual unseen part of who we are in Christ.  As we are surrendered to the process of being re-planted near streams of Living Water, a very natural process of health and growth begins to take place from the inside out, producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit flowing through us: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) He displays within us and through us the beautiful character of God through daily life situations that normally would’ve led us down a path below our new identity in Christ.

Another aspect of the fruitful life is the reality that fruit contain seeds that produce even more fruit in time.  It multiplies.  Jesus says that when the seed fell onto good soil, “It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8:8)  Last time I checked, a hundred times more than what was sown is extremely prosperous.  God is pleased to bring multiplication to our life in Him as we grow into a mature tree with the sap of His Spirit pulsing through our branches.  He wants to use us to be a blessing to others, which is for our joy and His glory.  He told Adam and Eve to, “be fruitful and increase in number.” (Genesis 1:28) The final instructions Jesus passed onto His disciples was, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations….” (Matthew 28:19) And then we see the beginning of the church experiencing the fruit Jesus spoke about- “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42, 47)

God measures fruitfulness in both our inward life of molding us into the image of Christ; and also by way of allowing the sharing of our faith walk with unbelievers or younger believers to multiply the fruit around us.  When we are not walking with the wicked, standing with the sinners, or sitting with the mockers; but rather planted by streams of water, delighting in His Word, we should live with an expectancy of yielding fruit in our lives.  Our daily life may not necessarily be easy, but it should be characterized by this ongoing natural harvest of fruitfulness and soul prosperity.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”  

-John 15:5-8

So often we are deceived to think of God as this mysterious Being sitting on a throne with a long list of requirements, just wanting to take from us all the time.  After the Lord replanted me into a different bed of soil, surrounded by growing believers who readily poured into my life, and began to illuminate the beauty of living according to His Word, I wasn’t tempted to think of Him in this way any longer.  I experienced firsthand the ways He was causing my soul to prosper and be fruitful.  And little by little multiplication was happening.  Discipleship was happening- both in my own maturity and allowing me to take part in others’ maturing process.  I was becoming a tree firmly planted and growing stronger and taller in Christ.  Staying planted by that stream of Living Water each day was allowing me to remain in Him which led to regular answered prayers.  The invisible Kingdom was growing around me everyday- more expansive and more beautiful.  It was and always will be worth the risk to step up to the edge, heart racing & palms sweating- because it is only in that place that we can behold His glorious works on the earth!


They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.

-Jeremiah 17:8-




When you’ve been wandering in the desert wastelands for awhile, you pick up on a couple of fundamental truths: trust & faithfulness.  Trust in the Lord that He will do His part to lead you to someplace good.  Faithfulness: cultivate a life that pleases Him in every possible way.  These are the rich ingredients that begin to turn the wilderness into a dance floor.  It begins to matter less WHERE you are, but rather WHO is with you in that desolate place.  Back and forth you go- Him leading, you trusting and learning to be faithful to submit and follow.  You are learning how to dance with an invisible God.

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Philippians 4:12-13


The lonely years for me felt like being “in want” a lot.  Sometimes I would chase what I thought I wanted only to come up unsatisfied in the end, discontent & bewildered.  Other times, by faith, I was learning to run to Jesus with my “wanting”.  And somehow, through Him, I would discover a deeper desire hidden beneath my seeking that could only be fully satisfied in Him.  These small tastes of a satisfied, contented soul started a domino effect that altogether altered my heart’s taste buds.

Taste and see that the Lord is goodblessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing.” -Psalm 34:8-9

It wasn’t that He was only good to cause the spiritually blind to see and dead to come to life, although the gift of salvation is the pinnacle of His goodness to us; but my heart was beginning to find it’s central pulse of delight in Him.  I wasn’t going to find satisfaction in God PLUS a handful of other things I was longing and praying for.  I was uncovering the true secret of contentment in all circumstances: simply Jesus, with or without the other fulfilled longings.   The lonely wilderness gave me the priceless gift of transformed desires.  Being with Jesus became my one thing, my heart’s delight, and my secret treasure.  Yes, I still had many hopes and dreams: “Lord, my every desire is known to you; my sighing is not hidden from you” (Psalm 39:9), but by offering them to Jesus, I knew He would lead me to whatever was best for me at the root of my desires.

Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the LordAnd He will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalm 37: 3-4


He’s always working, always orchestrating His story.  He’s always getting the glory in the unseen places even if we miss out on it because we’re captivated by lesser things.  This is why I’m so thankful for His grace to drag me into the lonely wilderness and teach me to delight in Him- so I could watch the secret glories unfold.  I often wonder how the path of my life might be different if His grace hadn’t grabbed my full attention when He did.

I was stepping pretty far outside of my comfort zone and I think my parents were too, by letting me go.  Seventeen years old on a mission trip to Mexico: no skills to offer, not much maturity to speak of really, and no clue what to expect.  It was a trip that changed my life in several significant ways.  I brushed skin with poverty like I had never experienced or imagined in my sheltered life.  And yet the juxtaposition of the peoples’ joy against the enormity of their earthly needs made me ache for the secrets of the Kingdom that they possessed, which I knew I lacked.  My appetite for worldly things was shrinking by the day.

Only in looking back can I see the full measure of beauty in what He was doing in my heart in that place, far from the comforts of home.  “Trust in the Lord and do good….cultivate faithfulness…..delight in the Lord…..He will give you the desires of your heart.”  

One of the days midway through the trip, our group stopped by a shanty of a home to visit with the family who lived there.  Almost all of us crowded into this tiny, one room, cement block, open windowed abode.  I vividly remember 2 things about this scene in my life:  1) The man of the house displayed hospitality by offering us beverages that I’m sure they could not afford to spare.  2) I saw my future husband for the first time.

Bart was one of the first ones to step into the cement block doorway and so he was one of a few seated on the only “couch” type seats in the house.  As we were crammed into the doorway, I stood listening to the back and forth conversation between the translator and the man.  For some reason, I was drawn to look across the room and caught a sight I can still replay in my brain like it was moments ago.  Bart very nonchalantly reached into his pocket and grabbed the handful of money he had planned on using to buy souvenirs at the market later that day.  Then he very slyly stuffed the money down between the tattered couch cushions….a treasure to be discovered by the family later on.  He didn’t think anyone was watching, but the Lord grabbed my attention and let me in on a secret that would mark the rest of my earthly days: this is the man you’re gonna marry.

Well I was done for.  Suddenly this boy who had been one of my best “guy” friends since middle school (but never had one interest to date) looked completely different to me.  It was as if God had lifted the veil to allow me to see what He sees- the heart.  In that lonely wilderness season, as I had been pursuing the path to delight in Jesus, He led me straight to the hidden desire of my own heart.

“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” –1 Samuel 16:7

The rest of the trip, I mostly avoided Bart- scared of my own newfound enchantment towards him.  I watched him from afar, though.  I observed a heart that was growing for God, a heart that was humbly serving others, and a heart that was joyfully playing with the Mexican children in the streets- a man who would be my husband one day.

Upon arriving home, I recall telling both my best friend and my Mom about this crazy epiphany I’d had about Bart.  I’m pretty sure they thought I was nuts.  Some months later I discovered that he had been making his own observations about me on the trip, knowing something had shifted inside of my heart also, and wondering if I would one day become his wife.  We were running the same race in the same direction- albeit terribly imperfectly.  We were both pursuing God as faithfully as we knew how.  A seed had been planted and a vision had been imparted of what was to come.

“For the vision is yet for the appointed timeIt hastens toward the goal and it will not failThough it tarries, wait for itFor it will certainly come, it will not delay.” -Habakkuk 2:3

It would still be another 18 months after Mexico before we would ever officially be more than friends.  Many times throughout that year and a half, one of the two of us was tempted to rush forward.  But God had plans to mature us both some more before it was time to bring us together.  It was hard to wait on God’s timing, but in hindsight I see so clearly that the waiting was for our good and His glory- He was strengthening our faith.

Commit your way to the LordTrust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light. And your judgment as the noonday. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him -Psalm 37: 5-7

 So often once we receive what we were desiring from God, we idolize the gift above the Giver of good gifts.  And in doing so, we taint the gift.  We turn from God and look to the gifts to satisfy our souls in ways that only the Giver was designed to do.  The gifts are given to bless us- for every good father loves to give good gifts to his children.  The gifts are meant to be a means to draw us into worshiping the only One who is truly deserving- the One who is eternally worthy of all our earthly crowns.  When we cling to these gifts- these fulfilled desires of our heart- we cut off the flow of our own hearts delighting in God first.  And quite simply, we miss out on the full measure of the blessing of our gifts.

However, when you are a citizen of the upside down Kingdom, you learn that the King delights to give His children good gifts: “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (James 1:17)  But, he knows our propensity towards short circuiting the flow of blessings- our bent toward bowing to the created rather than the Creator of all things.  And so he instructs us to be patient and let Him give and take away in His own perfect timing.

The good and perfect gifts that He gives are the ones that set our hearts ablaze with gratitude for His undeserved goodness in our lives.  He delights to give us the desires of our hearts- especially good things that cause our hearts to rejoice in Him above all.  And when we receive these pieces of His beautiful plan for us- these fulfilled desires of our hearts- with open hands of faith filled gratitude rather than closed hands of clenching fear, He is able to multiply the blessing and cause it to grow.  Over time, the fruit of HIS good gifts grow deeper, richer, and more satisfying than a lifetime full of empty treasures.  His treasures are seeds that will continue yielding a harvest year after year, even after we have completed the number of our days on this dusty earth.

Delighting in Jesus is the key that unlocks so many doors to our destiny.  Everyday, over and over again, He invites us to come to His table and be satisfied with the best things: namely the mysterious glory of Himself.  The irony is that the lonely wilderness seasons are the training ground to strip us of our old taste buds and prepare us to rightly receive all that He has piled up in His heavenly storehouses to pour into our laps.

Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without costWhy spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and you will delight in the richest of fare.” -Isaiah 55:1-2

For as many days that the Lord has already gifted Bart and I with the sweet fellowship of sharing life together- through the good days and bad, peace and strife- and any number of unknown days we have ahead to partner in the delights of this journey; these precious gifts are but a foretaste of what is yet to come.  Even the fulfillment of these desires, and the fruit that has come as a result over time of walking together with Jesus- these earthly delights still only serve as another greater vision that “hastens toward the goal“.  One day, we will pour out our last drop of life and finish this earthly tenure.  We will open our eyes and find that our faith has finally given way to sight.  The Promised Land that we have been seeking will be ours forevermore, in Jesus.

“…you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay. You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” -Psalm 16:10-11

But until that day comes, this chapter of our story serves as a reminder that I’ve already been given one of the greatest secrets of the Kingdom in 15 powerful words to live by:

“Delight yourself in the LordAnd He will give you the desires of your heart.”

-Psalm 37:4-

The Lonely Wilderness

A new birth changes everything.  It’s normally a time of all consuming joy and celebration.  I remember when my oldest, Isaac, was born and I thought my heart might explode with the joy that came attached to that chubby bundle of baby.  A waiting room of visitors were there to welcome him into the world.  Hugs, laughter, and new baby boy gifts were abounding.  It felt like, for a period of time, life was perfectly perfect.  And it was, until about a week later.  That’s about when the sleep deprivation kicked in, the extra help trailed back into their own lives, and I realized my time and my identity were no longer all about me anymore.  This new birth was still very much a welcomed addition into my world, but I quickly realized that more of me was going to have to be given to this 9 lb 7 oz infant than I had been told in all the expert books.  

It’s really not much different when you’re born into Christ.  After you finally surrender yourself into the arms of this King who bids you to come and follow Him, everything in life feels perfectly perfect for awhile.  Or at least, it did for me.  I had this crystal clear understanding about why I was here- on planet Earth.  I was relieved and thankful to have my sins washed away, to have the fear of death taken away.  The hope of abundant life on earth and everlasting life in heaven made the moments of my days somehow lighter and brighter than they had ever been.  I knew that this new birth had set me on a path toward the greater upside down Kingdom.  However, I had been mostly unaware that I had entered the Kingdom through the birth canal of a narrow gate.  I had simply been following the Good Shepherd into a new pasture.  

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” – Matthew 7:13-14


There is an ancient text, the second book of the Bible actually, that is commonly referred to as Exodus.  The title is an interesting one.  The  Greek word “exodos” means “a going out” or “a departure”.  The Hebrew title for this piece of holy writ is simply “Names.”  Therefore, it seems fitting to me to borrow from the narrative of the Exodus to better understand the next leg of my own journey.

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, had been oppressed in Egypt for over 400 years when God delivered them from slavery.  God used the unlikely character of Moses to guide the people to His plans for Deliverance.  After waiting and suffering through the bartering with Pharaoh, the nine awful plagues in the land, and repeated rejection of the Pharaoh to free the people, Moses gave one final instruction to the people for their own protection.  And so, by faith, they painted the blood of the lamb on the doorposts of their homes and waited for the Passover: the final plague of death to pass through the land of Egypt.  The homes with the blood covering were spared while every other home in Egypt from the greatest in the land to the lowliest woke up to a howling cry of grief- the loss of their first born.  The penalty of sin is no respecter of status.  Finally, the hard-hearted Pharaoh broke & the people were set free to worship and serve the Lord.


And just like that, by faith in the sprinkled Blood of the Lamb on our hearts, we are set free from a life of slavery to sin and judgement.  We depart from the wide path, from a life that leads to destruction.  By faith, we step through the narrow gate, to a “hard” life that leads to the Ultimate Life and those who find it are few….more evidence of this upside down Kingdom.

“you were ransomed ….. not with perishable things such as silver or gold,  but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” – 1 Peter 1:18-19


Fast forward in the narrative of the Exodus, the joy of the Great Deliverance from the hand of Pharaoh has turned into a life of wandering in the desert wilderness.  The people start to complain and grumble, even though God has provided food and water in miraculously new ways.  He leads them onward each day via fire by night and a cloud by day.  Even still, the people start to wonder why God would bring them out into this desert to die.

The challenges in this desert place make them doubt the goodness of this unseen God who supernaturally delivered them from the hand of Pharaoh and parted the Red Sea for them to walk on dry ground.  The sin in their hearts causes them to look back at their days as slaves in Egypt as a better lot after all.  They think it might be better to just turn back and return to their old life.  Rather than worshiping their Savior, these stubborn people would prefer to worship a god like the nations around them and so they fashion an idol and exchange the glory of God for the image of a created thing.  They did not consider Him who called them to be faithful to fulfill His Promise to bring them into the unseen Kingdom, the land flowing with milk and honey, and abundant goodness.

They didn’t get the memo: they weren’t adequately prepared for the difficulty on the other side of the narrow gate.  The wilderness was a season set apart to prepare them for what was on the other side.  They were called into the Wilderness so they could become intimately acquainted with the wonders of this unseen God who came for them.  They were making an “exodos”, a departure, from who they used to be into who this King created them to be- a people set apart for His glory.  They had a new holy language to understand & live by, new customs & habits to value, and hearts that ultimately needed to be molded to desire, love, and trust this gloriously unseen God who had heard their cries for deliverance.  The best part of all was that He desired to reveal Himself to them.  He wanted to make His dwelling among them, to be a blessing to them, and bless the nations through them, just as He had promised to Abraham.


I see so much of my own story in these wandering Israelites.  The couple of years following my own great deliverance and my new birth of the Spirit, they were hard days.  Maybe I had been warned and just couldn’t hear it for the newfound joy and peace I had discovered, but it sure felt like a desert place.  

As I made my own exodus out of the empty, vain, worldly life I was living- I was “going out” or “departing” from my old life.  And I had to go through a desert of testing, trials, and undesirable circumstances so He could prepare me for all that was to come.  I had assumed that everyone in my “wide path living” would be sharing in this new adventure with me.  I had hoped I would be completely accepted and understood- but as I looked around I was no longer on the wide path with my familiar traveling companions.  I wanted so badly to snap my fingers and get to the destination- to the other side of this refining fire.  I didn’t want to struggle with the same flesh struggles and temptations; but that old self was still inside of me battling for control- oftentimes wanting me to turn back and return to my old, easier, more familiar ways.

Surely, I tried to reason, my old ways weren’t THAT bad! Maybe I have made Egypt to be worse than it really was.  But at every turn, the Word of God & His glorious Presence would lead me onward, deeper into the wilderness, further from the person I once knew.

“As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16

It was a lonely time.  I was beginning to change from the inside out. It felt as though many did not know what to do with this new creation that was becoming me- and even more so, I felt the awkward newness of myself trying to find my way.

I was learning the language of my Father and I wanted to be like Him instead of the world around me- His love was pure.  I learned that my body was the temple of the Holy Spirit now, I was His dwelling place, and so I didn’t want to dishonor Him with my body.  I didn’t know much about His Word at all, but I felt the desire growing to seek truth there- it was becoming my compass for life. He would never leave me nor forsake me, I discovered. So I began to commune with Him in prayer not just once but all throughout the day.  And because He was winning my heart in this desert place, the biggest miracle started to happen- I started to really love Him.  I began to desire His approval more than the people around me.

Just like the Hebrew name for Exodus was “Names”, I was finding that He brought me out into this desert place to give me a new name: a new identity that matched the person He saw within me- the person I couldn’t yet see in myself.  It was in the wilderness that He began the inward heart work of helping me shed my slave mentality, and put on the confidence that I was now a child of God- predestined for good works that He had prepared in advance for me.  I had to learn how to hear and obey His Voice if He was going to take me into the spacious land of promise.

“I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there. I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.” –Hosea 2:14-15


The wilderness wanderings are designed to break you, in a beautiful way.  It can make you feel lonely and misunderstood- an alien in this world.  It’s like a toddler learning how to walk for the very first time in your new life in Him:

“It was I who taught Ephraim to walk, taking them by the arms; but they did not realize it was I who healed them. I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them.” – Hosea 11:3-4

There are times you feel like you missed the memo on how to fit in anymore.   But there are treasures to be found in the desert if you can quit looking back on your Egypt and press on towards knowing Him who called you into His glorious light.  The greatest treasure of all is not even the treasures awaiting at the finish line of this long wilderness journey.  Without question, the most precious gift of all is realizing that His love is too scandalous, too faithful & good, to have let you take the wide path that leads to destruction.  He called you there because the wilderness was the only place where you were going to learn to know Him and love Him above any created thing, to hear His Voice & follow His plan above your own.


If I could go back in time, I would tell that young Mom that the sleep deprivation, the giving up of your body/time/identity, and the losing yourself in loving another- these are but minor hurdles to overcome in the journey towards something greater.  And I would say the same to my own soul in the lonely wilderness:  every bit of struggle, loneliness, and feeling misunderstood- you don’t want to skip those parts or rush through them.  They are the crucibles where you are changed.  They are the fire that burns away the old self and allows the new self to come to life.  Don’t look back at Egypt, but keep doing these hard things, on the narrow path, with great courage.  The Lover of your soul is coming for all the pieces of your broken heart in that desert & you don’t want to miss Him.  When you meet Him in the desert, your soul will be satisfied with His glory and you will be ruined for anything else on this earth.


“In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials,  so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.  Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,  obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” – 1 Peter 1:6-9

An Upside Down Kingdom

It happened one ordinary day around 10am, as I was pouring out my heart in an attempt to engage my 5th graders in the reading passage of the day- a Chinese fairy tale excerpt about a dragon, a king, and a little girl on a mission to help her poor family by seeking out a “borrowed line”.  The text was challenging, but I was trying my best to sell it as one of the most interesting stories I’ve ever heard, all the while wondering what exactly is the point of all this?

My eyes land on a line that sort of shakes me to the core but I don’t really understand what has shifted inside of me.  “You only lose what you cling to.”  The students don’t know it, but I hang in the moment as something begins to awaken.  Is this eternity written on the heart of a Chinese fairy tale?  Is the good news really tucked inside of this ordinary moment of teaching secular text to mostly uninterested 10 year olds who honestly just can’t wait for their teacher to shut up so they can go to PE?

You only lose what you cling to.” -Where the Mountain Meets the Moon


“For whoever is bent on saving his [temporal] life [his comfort and security here] shall lose it [eternal life]; and whoever loses his life [his comfort and security here] for My sake shall find it [life everlasting].”- Jesus, Matthew 16:25, AMPC

Rewind 2 decades to another heap of ordinary moments and you’d find a freckle faced girl in a similar scene, only this time as a freshman sitting in English I with Mrs. Duvall.  You might note a life more blessed than she realizes at the time.  A stable home life, good grades, lots of wonderful friendships and support from loving people all around her.  Her biggest problems at the time might include topics like stressing over grades, fearing that she’s fat, wondering with whom she’ll steal a ride to lunch, and what new clothes might help improve her wardrobe.  She was born into great blessing, but she was blind.  And she did not know that she was loved with an unbreakable, unending, scandalous love.  She didn’t know of her own sinful heart & how it separated her from her Creator either.  She was unaware that she was being pursued and that her life was about to change.

Brokenness had to come into that blessed life in order for those blinders to come off.  She was loved too much to be left on that path that led to the Ultimate Loss.  Her self made, earthly kingdom was about to come crashing down.  She didn’t know that life was so fragile, that your days are a gift given to be given away.  Those were secrets yet to be told her at a later time.  As she was spending her days doing what all wordly teenagers do, she was building her own kingdom and clinging tightly to the story she was writing with her life.  It’s not even that it was all bad; its just that there was so much more- there was another greater Kingdom.

When the days of mourning came crashing around her, she knew that the kingdom of safety and security she had lived in for so long, it was gone forever.  With one tidal wave of loss, life would never be the same.  And how do you move on from that place?  How do you find purpose or meaning in outfits, straight A’s, and boys anymore when the blessed reality you were living in suddenly gets washed away?  How can emptiness and loss and brokenness ever be a gift?

Sometimes it takes awhile before a buried seed starts to show signs of new life.  It can take some time to really understand the brokenness of your heart.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” –John 12:24

God was simply preparing that girl for her entrance into the kingdom.  The scales on the eyes of her heart were beginning to fall.  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:34-36)

But how do you let go of the only kingdom that you’ve ever known?  When you’ve felt the sting of brokenness and also the progress of your own kingdom, how do you just abandon the path you’re on for a kingdom so mysterious?  How do you stop clinging so tightly to the only things you’ve ever known to bring comfort,  security, & identity in this world?  And yet, the King Himself extends the invitation to come after Him into the upside down Kingdom.  He doesn’t force, but He woos.  During the in-between moments of building that earthly kingdom, He gives glimpses of the futility of the pursuits of this visible kingdom.  And He awakens the courage of the soul to ask the question numbed for too many days: surely there is more than this?

This unknown beckoning is scary.  What does it even mean or require? Lose your life to gain everlasting life??  Is it possible to build both kingdoms in your life at the same time….to have a taste of each?  Is that the essence of a life well spent?  The seed falls on the soil of the heart: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24)  

Finally, the crashing comes.  What was thought to be the scariest step- the dying of self, pride, plans, & the expected path- in a moment turns into wonder, glory, and hope.  A long awaited second birth, a new citizenship granted, a soul suddenly alive for the first time.  There was a celebration that day in the unseen Kingdom- “Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10)

The cosmic orphan finally had a place in the one and only lasting Kingdom- and she knew in her heart of hearts that she was the recipient of a great rescue mission- “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)  And this was just the beginning of the story- the first lesson of many to come: it is only in losing your life that you are free to find true, lasting, abundant life.  But the longer and harder you cling to this life of earthly kingdoms, the more you lose in the end.  You only lose what you cling to.  


Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ – Phil 3:8

Two decades ago.  The lessons grow deeper in meaning & richer in reward as the years tick by.  Each new sentence on the page of my life has been a lesson from the King.  Don’t cling.  Lose in order to gain.  You were given a great blessing in order to be a blessing.  Pour out so you can be filled up in ways you never dreamed possible.  Keep your eyes on the King of Kings.  Your life is in His hands.  And His Kingdom is an upside down Kingdom.

And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” – Esther 4:14