If Only You Had Enough Faith

clinging to bible

A conversation yesterday regarding a mother facing a life-limiting diagnosis in pregnancy unlocked emotions laying dormant in my depths for more than a decade. Those words, spewing the barbed accusations of not enough.

If you only have enough faith you will be well. Your babies will be well. Your mother will be well.

If you pray believing, then it will be so.

People are only sick because they don’t pray with faith, believing they will be healed. They have doubt in their hearts.

In one fell swoop, I was back there…on my knees begging God to show me how to pray with faith. Begging God to spare my son. Because if only…if only I could just learn the lesson I failed to learn the first time I stood beside the tiny grave that held my twin daughters Faith and Grace…then I wouldn’t have to stand beside the grave again holding our son Thomas who had been giving the fatal diagnosis of Potter’s Syndrome.

I was desperate to understand what was required of me. Desperate to have enough faith. To pray correctly. To be counted among the righteous. Desperate in my broken. Desperate as only a mother can be. Desperate.

I tore open my bible, laid on my face covered in tears. Drowning in tears. As the storm raged relentless, both outside and within.

Show me. Show me the kind of faith you require. Show me how to have the faith that pleases you. Show me what I failed to learn the first time, that we would be spared this agony. Show me.

And He did.

In Chapter 7 of my book, Sufficient Grace, I cover the faith-wrestlings by delving into His Word:

Was it enough to believe that God could heal our baby, or were we expected to believe with confidence that He would heal our baby? That seemed a little presumptuous to me. But I wondered about this faith thing. Was my lack of faith the reason for all this agony? If I could just learn the lesson somehow, would we be spared?”

I wanted to understand faith…so I devoured Hebrews chapter 11…known as “the hall of fame of faith.”

I read about how faith is the substance of things hoped for…the evidence of things not seen.

I read about Abraham and David and Rahab and Noah and Moses…all flawed and broken. All full of doubt and unknowing. But still considered faithful. Still considered His.

Most of all, I read about Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Did He skip to the cross…knowing all would be well, without a moment of doubt or hesitation? What did His faith look like? After all, He is our example. Did He ever wrestle with what lay in front of Him?

I read in Hebrews how Jesus endured the cross despising the shame…yet He did it for the joy set before Him. The joy of heaven, of our restoration. Yet, He asked the Father to take this cup from Him…if there was any other way. He asked three times, resisting to the point of sweating great drops of blood. And, yet…He is our example. He didn’t love the idea of the cross before Him. He knew the beginning from the end. And, it still was agony. Was I faithless because I didn’t love the cross in front of me? No. Even Jesus wrestled with the agony of the cross. And, yet…He surrendered to the Father’s will, believing Him…even in the midst of the agony.

In Hebrews, this powerful verse spoke to my tattered heart in those silent months of carrying our Thomas:

…the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:38-40)

They had to believe God without seeing. To believe Him when things didn’t go as planned. To believe Him when He gave a different answer than they hoped. To believe Him when they didn’t see the promise this side of heaven.

What of Job? Job…counted as righteous, pleasing to God…and yet he lost all that he had.

And, what of Jesus’ conversation with Thomas in John 21…

You believe because you see, Thomas…blessed are those who believe without seeing.

I stumbled in my desperate search, still hoping I could unlock the code, even amongst all this evidence that faith wasn’t about me.

Faith isn’t about how well I believe, how certain I am. How strong. Faith is about trusting my God. No matter what. Believing when I don’t see. Sufficient Grace is about knowing that His strength is made perfect through my weakness. It is not about me getting it right or performing well enough. Such nonsense diminishes the power of my God.

Still…I longed for an answer. So when I read the familiar story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, my mama heart lept. Could it be?

This sickness will not end in death. No, it if for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.

Will he save my Thomas? Is that what He is saying?

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?

Yes, Lord…I believe this…and I finally understood. Over the course of a few days, the message sunk in. No matter what the outcome, Thomas will live. God whispered to my heart, whether Thomas lived physically on this earth or whether He was made complete in heaven, He would live. He would live…and his life would be a miracle…no matter what. So…I was expecting new life. New beautiful, amazing life. God whispered His promise in the quiet of my kitchen as my tears dripped on the bible before me.” (pg. 83 Sufficient Grace)

So many people praise God when they see the miracle this side of heaven, the miracle of physical healing. But, God is still good when He chooses to heal by taking a soul home to restore brokenness…by healing a marriage, saving a soul, restoring broken faith, deepening our relationships on earth and with Him.
God is still good and worthy of praise when we don’t get the answers we asked for or when there seems to be no answer at all.

This world is a broken place. Filled with brokenness and suffering. Not because God willed it to be so. He is not a Father up there…shaking His finger…saying “If only you believed enough. If only you sinned less. If only you could figure out some hidden lesson, then you would be healed.”

If you never hear anything I’ve spoken or written…please, please HEAR this…that lie that “if only we had enough faith”…is from the pit. It is NOT from God. If that were so, there would be much less suffering and many would never die. I prayed. Desperate prayers. Elders laid hands on me and prayed. But, God still chose to heal my Thomas by taking him Home. That doesn’t mean I am not His. That doesn’t mean He rejected me. That doesn’t mean I am not “faithful enough.” There is no such thing. There is nothing I could do to earn His love or salvation. To be worthy on my own. I am worthy solely because the blood of Jesus covers me. His love, His grace covers us…carries us. He longs to wipe our tears. To mend our broken places. He waits for us outside of the pit, offering a hand…He sits with us in the pit…until we are ready to take His hand. Nothing separates us from His love. Nothing.

I share much more about our faith journey in my book, Sufficient Grace. Because I just want you to know about His Sufficient Grace, I want to offer it at the special bulk rate for anyone who read this post and would like further encouragement in their own faith-wrestlings. Use the bulk-rate button this week until November 21, 2015 to get the $8 rate.

When Your Offering is Rejected


Rejection. It happens often. It is most definitely prevalent in the lives of artists and writers.
But, not just artists and writers. Any human being on planet earth will experience rejection at some point.

Your love, offered to another, may be rejected.
Your friendship.
Your ministry.
Your gift of time.
Your talents and abilities.
Your very presence.

Something you give from the depths of your heart will be rejected at some point during your stay here on planet earth. And, it doesn’t matter.
It doesn’t matter who you are, it will happen.
And, when it does…when you question the value of not only your offering, but your very self…not only to the vessel doing the rejecting…but to the God who vowed to love all of you for all of eternity…
Hear me when I say…It doesn’t matter.

The first questions sneering at me in moments when my offering is rejected are…

Did I lose favor with God? Was I not enough? Was my offering unworthy, flawed, too broken, too lacking?
Have I done something to lose favor with God?

Followed by a parade of accusations of all my flaws…proof of my glaring unworthiness. Accusations of all the ways I fall short, don’t measure up…of all my cracked and broken places, seemingly as yet unredeemed.

The first thing is…

Apart from Jesus, every ugly thing the Accuser whispers in the dark of night…is true about me. But, with Jesus…because of Jesus…none of it is. Because I am remade, redeemed. His.
Only…by His blood.
Not by any offering I lay before Him. Or before the world.

He reminded me last week via the song “You Are More” by 10th Avenue North…when the noise was so, so thick I couldn’t hear His truth. ‪Because there is nothing. Nothing like trying to hear the quiet steadiness of God’s truth through a storm of crippling lies.

“She knows all the answers
And she’s rehearsed all the lines
And so she’ll try to do better
But then she’s too weak to try
But don’t you know who you are?
You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.
‘Cause this is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you loved.”

And, the next thing is…

That rejection doesn’t matter.
It isn’t a rejection from our God. Because He already accepts us, as we are, covered by the blood of Jesus and fully redeemed. He could no more reject us than we could reject the offerings of our own children. He shines with beaming love for us…and our every stumbling effort. He sings over us with sheer delight. That is the Father we have….that is our Abba Daddy.

So the stinging rejection. It doesn’t matter.
Never mind it.

It doesn’t define you. It shouldn’t cripple you. The enemy wants to at the least use it to distract you from the work you’ve been giving to do. At the most, he wants to destroy you with it. To utterly paralyze you, so that you not only give up on serving and using the abilities God has given you to encourage another soul…but that you doubt everything you know is true about His undying unconditional love for you. He wants you to isolate yourself. To be alone with the crippling thoughts of despair. He wants you to believe that one rejection negates all the moments when you clearly saw God working…the true moments of ministry…the real and raw moments where you connect with another heart as all the passing barriers of this earth fall away and you hold another broken soul in your arms as Jesus meets you there in the midst, transforming your broken offering into His tangible love.

He doesn’t want you to pick up your head, to run to the truth…to strain to hear God’s solid and unwavering whisper of truth in the midst of a roaring storm of lies meant for your destruction.

Run to the truth in that moment with all that you have.

Give it all over to the Lord…the rejection. The offering. Your wounded spirit. Let Him sift through it all and decide what’s left. And, leave it there.

Because here is the crazy, freeing gift of it all.

Your offering was never for your glory. It wasn’t to gain you favor in His eyes or anyone else’s…it doesn’t exist to bring you success or failure. Your offering has nothing to do with you. How’s that for mind-blowing?

But, also…awesome.

Because when it happens…and it WILL happen…it doesn’t change a thing.

I am still His. Even when my offering is rejected. I am no less loved. I am no less His.
Nothing. Nothing can take that away.
Hear that. Receive that. Let that crazy, amazing truth soak into your bones. Not just as a paltry offering of pretty words. But, as living truth permeating your soul. You are His. You are loved. And nothing you do or say or don’t do…nothing that someone else does or says…nothing will ever take that away. It is secure. It is finished.
You are His. (See Romans 8:31-39)

He doesn’t change His mind. He doesn’t give up on us. He never quits the work He begins in us. (Philippians 1:6)

Which means, I am still called to do the work He has given me to do. No matter how much the enemy would like me to think that rejection means I should throw in the towel. Not so.

It is none of our business, rejection. It is none of our business if our neighbor’s offering is accepted when ours is not…an entirely different layer of rejection. One not worth exploring further except to say…
It doesn’t matter.
What is that to you? Go and serve the Lord.

Go love the person in front of you. And, the next and the next.

If a door closes in your face, ask God to lead you to the next one. And, go freely in His grace, unencumbered along the way. Don’t you dare…daughter (or son) of the Most High God…don’t you dare hang your head or carry the weight of what isn’t yours to bear. Leave it. let your identity be so hidden in Christ that it truly doesn’t even touch you.

Go be about your Father’s business with pure freedom in joy.
Because, it doesn’t matter.

You can only give you have to give, what He has given you. It is none of our business how that gift is received. And, it doesn’t define us.

It doesn’t matter.


When Anxiety Happens

Several mothers in conversations at last week’s Walk to Remember in Houston told me that some of the most comfort they found was in the posts where I was real about the broken stuff. It is why I try to not hide behind facades…and why I try to be open about struggles, even though that’s often misunderstood or judged by some. But, it’s in the realness others are encouraged.

I’ve never been a person prone to panic attacks. The idea of loss of control is abhorrent to me…well for myself. I’m quite gracious and understanding if someone else feels a loss of control. But, apparently I don’t afford myself the same grace.

After my mother died, having suffered more than I ever thought was possible for a human being to suffer, I felt differently about health issues or visiting the doctor. I developed a strong aversion and outright fear of any medical intervention or concern. The depth of this fear was realized when I had a migraine that landed me in the emergency room, disoriented from effects of medication on a trip home from a visit to our NE Ohio branch to offer trainings a couple years ago.

I stood beside the bed asking why my hands and feet were numb, refusing to lay down in the bed.

“You’re having a panic attack ma’am.”

“I don’t have panic attacks,” I protested vehemently, “I take care of other people. I don’t lose control.”

But, the lack of control was quite evident as panic literally gripped my body, squeezing my heart, stealing the air from my lungs, making my legs and arms feel like jello covered weights hanging from me. Five hundred anxious thoughts raced through my brain and I could barely pick out just one…enough to discern through the tangled mess of my brain to write a text to my husband to come and get me.

Later, we found out I was having a reaction to some of the migraine medicine I was given, which caused serotonin toxicity, a condition triggering unreasonably high anxiety and irritability. The loss of control for me was incredibly traumatic. And I’ve been hesitant to see a doctor for much of anything since that fateful Emergency Room experience. The entire ordeal…and the intense fear of being out of control of my body and mind, mixed with the stark reality of my own mortality caused me to make some changes in my own Healthcare regimen…and part of that included limiting any medical interventions.

Which brings us to yesterday.

When I….a woman who has birthed five babies and buried three, who has been poked and prodded…scarred from IVs and shots, had a couple surgeries, had needles placed in her uterus, stands in birthing rooms, holding the hands of mothers while amniotic fluid splashes and birth happens without missing a beat, a woman who calmly and gently cares for tiny babies…sometimes in various stages of broken and sees only their beauty…stares death in the face again and again, standing in the place where heaven meets earth again and again…

I had a panic attack. At the dentist. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to hide my racing heartbeat, the tightness of my chest, the rapid breathing, the legs and arms turning to utter jello. Embarrassed by the image of my forty year old self crying silently, unable to keep the tears from falling while in the dentist chair, I heard myself apologize, while making every effort to keep my breathing steady and my voice calm.

“I’m having a bit of anxiety. This is so embarrassing.”

They tried to explain the procedure, thinking I was afraid of the minor dental procedure. As a teenager I had 8 teeth pulled to make room for braces, and my wisdom teeth. Without missing a beat. I’m not afraid of the dentist.

Yet, the tears fell, as I willed myself to remain in the chair. Reminding me…that deep inside, there are still some broken places. Places that don’t listen to reason. Places that know how fragile life is, how we are not exempt from suffering this side of heaven, places that fear any medical procedure or lack of control.

It is something so misunderstood. Something I will admit I once perceived as weakness, at least in myself. Anxiety. Panic attacks. I choose to pray through mine. And use other natural remedies, like essential oils. I think of scripture that offers solid truth that’s unchanging when fear grips me….taking those thoughts captive as the bible instructs. But, in my human flesh, I can’t control my body’s fight or flight response.

I just want to speak to the stigma for a moment. Anxiety is a very real thing. It’s an intense battle in the mind. And having that battle doesn’t make a person weak or inept or unable to perform well. I am typically calm in many trauma-induced situations, entering into raw grief with others on an almost daily basis. My triggers are when my own health is somehow compromised and I fear medical interventions that affect me in ways I can’t control. I think anxiety is often trigger specific for people. And, at other times it can come over you without provocation. This post isn’t meant to be an in-depth research on the subject.

I just want to share one of my personal broken places…to say that being a bit broken doesn’t mean we are weak or less capable. Loss and trauma can leave a person susceptible to anxiety and post traumatic stress responses. Speaking it aloud can often help us understand one another as we all walk together with our own broken places, open and vulnerable…and real.

Real is my favorite…even in the broken.

With Unveiled Face


Yesterday during a weekly prayer session with my friend Lynette, it happened. One of my favorite nuggets of grace…when God allows His Word to come alive and the words jump out from the page, piercing into your soul, written just for you.

Three words from the scripture below… “with unveiled face.”

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
2 Corinthians 3:18

Like a bride being presented to her groom, lifting the veil to see him fully in all his glory…and to freely be seen by her beloved. So many things veil our eyes from seeing God’s glory. I don’t want to be distracted with the noise of the world, the discouragement of the enemy, the comparison trap, the size of the mountain in front of us.

I want to reflect His glory, to enter into the mission field of grieving souls with a blend of meekness and boldness, covered always in love. To be so hidden in Him, so focused on the vision He has given me, that I am unmoved by what occurs in the world around me. One goal matters, to serve as the hands and feet of Jesus. To keep building this wall…in homage to Nehemiah.

I want to behold the glory of my God…with unveiled face. To abide in the shelter of His wings…to bathe in His love…to feel the depth of His grace. To be lifted in the humbling, quieted in the laying down, filled in the pouring out, renewed in the worship.

With unveiled face. With hair blowing in the wind abandon. Because I am His.

Photo credit


The following is from Kelly’s heart. Not on behalf of Sufficient Grace.

I can tell this will be one of those nights when sleep eludes me. Words, begging for release, like they do.

I’m not sure where to begin these ramblings from my depths.

There is a woman, quite dear to me, who no longer lives earthside, but has made her home in heaven. For her, all has been redeemed. Which makes my own wrestlings regarding her life and the sorting through of my thoughts on the matter seem rather futile. Except…the thing about complete redemption… It is not so this side of heaven. We still ache for full redemption in our broken state, for the day when our Savior returns to make all the wrongs right, once and for all. How it must grieve His heart, the damaged state of our current dwelling place.

Her body lies in the ground, but her soul lives. This woman who is dear to me.

When she walked on planet earth, she was never loved as she deserved. Not once. She didn’t even love herself the way a woman of her stature ought. For she carried more grit and grace in her pinky than most people do in their entire being. She just didn’t know it. She didn’t see herself the way He saw her. If she did…if she knew her worth was of far more value than rubies, life would’ve been different.

What she didn’t know, was that it was a man’s job to protect her, to love her, to treasure her. She learned a different lesson from the women she knew. And, some of the men. The men who gave her their names during various seasons of her life didn’t behave worthy of being called her blanket of protection. In many ways, they weren’t.

So, the dilemma in my wrestling is this. I know that all the broken that occurred this side of heaven has been redeemed for her on the other side, where she now lives. She is covered in the blanket of the love of Jesus, clean and set free from everything that entangled her and held her back in this life. She is all that He created her to be…and she knows…deep in her deepest depths that she is lovvvved….loved like we have never known this side of heaven. Every wrong has been made right.

So…why…why do I still long to give her back her name? To take a piece of the land back for her? Pieces that were stolen. What does that say about my heart thumping and stumbling along earthside, trying to shake off the broken and longing…always longing for redemption…even as we drink in grace?

Redemption is an interesting craving. And, I’ve been mulling it’s inner parts…the longing desire we have within us…for rightness and justice. For brokenness to find restoration.

I tend to be drawn to the broken hearts and people, seeing…always seeing…the redeemable qualities in another. (Well…almost always.)

Recently, my “therapist-ish” friend asked me about the attraction and fierce love I feel toward broken people as we sorted through my inner pieces.

She said, “Are you trying to fix them?”

“No,” I replied, “I can see the beauty…the good in them. I can see the redeeming qualities. And, I want the good to win.”

I want the person I see and love to see and love themselves…to know their own redeemable qualities, the ones God sees, the things in them Jesus saw when He laid down His life on the cross…to redeem every broken place inside every mess of a person.

I want to see redemption in the souls of those I love. Of those around me. I want to reflect back to them, like a mirror, shining light on their best side…on the potential I see in them. I want them to lift their heads and hope.

I want them to look to Jesus to be their Redeemer, for He is the only worthy one who can.

And, even still…I long to give that woman back her name. At least this side of heaven. In eternity, it likely won’t matter so much.

To the Ones Who Miss It

It takes incredible courage to look on the broken and painful things in this life…to not look away when others shield their eyes. To be willing to enter in with another human being, and carry suffering together awhile. I’ve written before about the “courage to see.” Those who are so brave are greatly blessed with the most sacred of gifts…the nuggets offered by a soul willing to lay their own hearts bare in a world that may not know how to receive the offering, in order that you may see the treasures hidden in a human heart. The beautiful gifts God weaves through a life…the beauty born from ashes…the gold refined from another soul walking through the fire.

There are also the ones who miss it. The ones who stay away. The ones who shield their eyes, because it is too difficult to lay down the shield and look. Because, looking may graze the carefully guarded pieces of our own hearts. Places we don’t want to revisit. Those who, for whatever reason, miss out on receiving the gifts waiting for them when they lift their eyes to see.

Tonight, I had a book signing for Sufficient Grace, in the hometown of my parents. It’s always a swirling of nostalgia, mixed and intense emotions, when I visit their town. There were some dear to me who were there in the gathering of hearts tonight. Those who have always been brave enough to look, and to love us, even in our darkest times. And, there were a few empty places…noticed only by me and a handful of those who know me well. Places left empty by the ones who miss it.

I have spent some time in my life, lamenting the ones who miss out on the most valuable gifts, and sometimes my lament has been selfish. I’ve considered how their absence has brought me disappointment. How I’ve felt left alone, or rejected in that moment. I walk around in human flesh, after all.

But, tonight, I felt great sorrow…not for my own feelings…because, in truth, my heart is filled to abundance with the blessings God gives…with the connecting of human hearts, I could never imagine…with the immeasurable gifts of seeing those who do come and feeling astounded at the miracle of being even the smallest of cracked vessels to deliver His message of grace, love, and powerful redemption. My sorrow is for the hearts of those who miss it. Who sit out the dance…who stay away from the challenges. (And, believe me, I know what it is to try and muster the brave to go when you want to hide in the safe place…I know the excruciating courage it takes to make yourself go to the places no one wants to go…again and again.) Those who cannot see beyond the pain for a moment…those locked in the bitter broken. I struggle often, not to carry the weight on my own shoulders, as if there were some way I could physically carry them to a place of healing…pry eyes open to make them look, and reach inside their hearts…past the carefully built walls…to help a heart see, not only the bitter broken…but more…the grace-filled healing love He wants to pour into them.

But, I am not…nor will I ever be the One capable of breaking through the broken to find a path of mending. Only my Jesus can do that. Only the Holy Spirit can nudge a soul toward His truth.

I was awakened in the wee hours, at 2ish a.m. to a text from one of the boys from my kitchen, reading my book. (Well, actually, I was awakened by Mr. Gerken’s snoring and the residuals of a migraine.) He is one who has had the courage to venture places few are brave enough to go, to expose his heart to the things others miss. That courage has led him to lead great philanthropic efforts to support Sufficient Grace Ministries, as a college student. His willingness to see the very hard things has helped further our mission, so that other mothers will not have to walk this path alone. He, and many other boys from my kitchen who stuff bears and give speeches about baby loss, and send me notes of encouragement, when they have no idea how much I need to know that this humble offering is making a difference in the lives of others.

The picture of him bravely seeing, reading the words from the deepest places of my heart…the words of a mother whose life was forever changed by the words… “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat.” That picture stood in stark contrast to the empty places of those who miss it. Those who remain shrouded in the pain, disappointments, fear…who stay in the broken places, because sometimes the path to mending means feeling the full brunt of things, leaving the false security of the numbness and leaning into the sharp shards of the shattered shrapnel from past disasters to allow the pieces to pierce through our carefully built walls…to allow whatever pours out to ooze real and raw and true. So the Mender can begin His mending.

I do understand the courage it takes to go when you want to stay, to look when you want to close your eyes. And, I’ve kept my eyes closed too…a time or two. Because I’m His, I’m never allowed to shy away for long. But, the thing is…we do have a choice. I could resist when He prompts…and sometimes I do…and I miss what He has for me. The beauty…the gift.

The good news…the amazing, hope-filled…never leaving us in the muck news…is that as long as we have breath in our lungs, we will be given another chance. That’s the grace we are given. Grace that doesn’t run out. A love that relentlessly pursues us. I am sad for those who miss it. But, as long as I have breath…I hold on to hope in the One who will never stop giving us the opportunity to come and receive the fullness of what He has for us.

There is always a great gift, in showing up, in going when He prompts, in looking on the places that are hard to see…in being stretched beyond our zones of comfort. Here’s to praying that we can muster the courage to see…so that we don’t miss it. And, here’s to being ready the next time, if we missed out on this opportunity. For all of life, every moment, holds opportunities to see His love and grace at work.

Lord, help us to see. Give us strength and eyes and hearts that won’t miss the gifts you give. How ever they may be packaged.

Opening Night

When I was in high school, the musicals were a huge production and those who starred in them, or played any part at all, were like mini-celebrities in our small, rural community, where our school building was tucked in the midst of a cornfield. We performed to a packed gym, standing room only…for three nights. A dress rehearsal, opening night, and Saturday night. It was a given. Full house.

I remember well, standing behind the curtain, shaking with anticipation, refusing to look on the other side of the curtain. Nervousness. Sweaty palms. Dry throat. When I opened my mouth to speak, would I remember my lines? When I opened my mouth to sing, would I have a voice? Would my body betray me under the weight of the panic rising and the pressure of wondering if the months of preparation would hold up in the moment. One moment. Would my offering be worthy?

I overcame the panic, by reassuring myself that I was the character. It wasn’t me standing on that stage. It wasn’t my performance on the line. I disappeared under the costume. Covered safely beneath the makeup.

It was Minnie Faye, or Mrs. Banks, or Rosie.

Not Kelly.

It made the pressure tolerable.

Hiding there freed me to soar beyond the crippling limitations of stage fright.

Rewind further back to eighth grade. My memory is poor. So, I cannot tell you why this moment is crystal clear in my mind, as if it happened yesterday. Other than it was one of those significant memories the Lord saw fit to tuck away, knowing it would be relevant to the shaping of the future. Relevant to this moment, standing backstage, wondering if my offering would be worthy. Wondering if anyone would come. Wondering if my knees would buckle beneath the pressure.

We were riding the bus, which was a rare occurrence, being a town student who had always walked to school with friends. Perhaps we were on our way to a field trip to tour the high school. As we drove past the building, I looked over at my friend Nicki…the one to whom I could safely whisper all of my secret, sacred dreams…the one who held them close to her heart, safely, and never mocked the sacredness. I leaned in closer, and spoke one of my deepest “What ifs” aloud.

“What if I never become a writer?”

It was a faraway dream, like the ones I’ve heard boys whisper to and from carpool. Dreams of standing on the baseball field…or football field…or golf course. Crazy, farfetched dreams of making it to “the show.” Becoming a professional athlete. And, yet…I craved it at the time, being an author, as if it were something to be grasped. As if it were possible. Youth…the magical season of life, a time when crazy dreams seem attainable. A time, untainted by the death bed, the dashed hopes, the disappointments of the drudgery of everyday…the grim realities of missed opportunity and regret and not measuring up. A time where dreams come true and Santa just might be real.

In a flash, I traded one dream for another, when I told my mother I was pregnant the week before my graduation from high school. Teachers would be disappointed at the lost potential. Family members were disappointed. My mother was not, or if she was, she tucked it safely away. She knew about trading dreams. I knew instantly, that this dream was far more valuable than any other I had dared to hope for. The trade was not even a blink in my eye. I have no regrets. I knew from day one of being a mother, while life was still being knit together in my womb, that this treasure was far more precious than words on a page, than life on a stage, than any accolades or accomplishments the world could offer. The boy I held in my arms at the tender age of eighteen became my new dream. The sacredness of being his mother. Of creating a family, and maintaining that family. I learned to pray when my knees buckled under the weight of the responsibility. Being a mother was far more significant than any other title I could ever hold, any role I would perform. I didn’t look back.

We filled the years, with birthday parties, and Christmas mornings. We dreamed dreams of a quiver full of children and stood beside tiny graves instead…holding tightly to the one God gave us when we were young and fragile and growing up before our time. We traded our old dreams for new…again and again. Another miracle filled our arms, and we continued on with baseball games and golf tournaments, trading dreams, living life, washing dishes, shaping concrete (Tim…not me), realizing that cheering them on at the sideline was so much more than any dream we dared to grasp for ourselves.

And those in this small railroad town. Those who once filled the gymnasium to receive our humbled offering…prayed prayers for our little family, as we stumbled and held on.

When God said it was time to write the words again, to tell the story that I never dreamed of telling, a story I would never have asked to write, I obeyed. And, the words flowed from my heart like therapy. A healing elixir. For ten years, He shaped and molded, weaving the story through our lives, a tapestry of grief and joy. For ten years we continued on about the business of life, standing by more graves, cheering on the sidelines, blowing out birthday candles, fighting and making up, serving in ministry, building up a dream from our broken, standing on stages again…this time…not to perform…but to give a far more worthy offering. Not to please the audience before us…but to serve an audience of One. To give an offering of hope, redemption, grace, and salvation from the One who gave His life, that we may live.

One of the hardest things to do, was to declare the offering finished. Complete. Worthy.

How desperately, I still wanted to give a worthy offering. How much I wanted it to be perfect. And, yet, the book born of my labor, is gloriously imperfect. Just like life.

The day the books arrived in the mail, I tore open the package and dropped to my knees on the kitchen floor, tears dripping down my face as decades of emotion rose from the depths, emotion I cannot describe bursting forth, like an erupting volcano. It was like giving birth…the myriad of grief and healing, accomplishment, joy, defeat, victory, humbling broken and sweet redemption.

I longed to run across town with the book in my hand, bursting through the door of my mother’s house…to say that I was a writer. To show her my offering.

And, at the same time, I longed to quietly lay the offering at my heavenly Father’s feet, knowing full well that it wasn’t mine…and that any identity I had was not in being a writer, a mother, or anything else…but simply in being His.

And, in the wee hours of this night/morning, when I stand behind the curtain for this next opening night, quivering, knees threatening to buckle under the pressure, dry throat, sweaty palms…wondering if anyone will come…if my humble offering will be found worthy, it isn’t a character I hide behind, or a mask of makeup covering my face, reassuring me that it isn’t about me or my performance. It is the shelter of my Father’s wings I nestle safely under, it is in Him, where my identity finds solace.

If for a moment, I wonder if anyone will come to receive the most of my heart and my Jesus I know to give at my little book signing, or if I take a stage in front of an audience or church, I find comfort in knowing that my God doesn’t measure success the way that we do. He concerns Himself not with a full house, but with one heart at a time, receiving the love and grace He has to give. Each sacred conversation we’ve shared, from those who have stopped to buy my little book at SGM and told me a piece of their hearts…or their dreams…or those who give in various ways to support grieving hearts through SGM. Or those who have written to say how a word on a page spoke to your weary soul. That has already, for me…humbled and blessed my heart more than I can say…that has already shown this tiny offering to be a worthy one. And, not because of me…because of the Author of my life and the Perfecter of my faith…and yours. Because of our great God. From the moment I said, “I will” when God said, “Will you?” the victory was already won.

Of course, I would be blessed beyond words if many of you would come to the Deshler Library tonight (from 6-8pm) to show love and support, and let me sign a book for you. Even though I’m just a little nobody girl from Deshler, Ohio. And, my offering is small and imperfect. (Because let me just say, it is really frightening to put yourself out there…to pour out your heart with the most you have to give, and to wonder if anyone will come.) But know this…whether one of you comes or several, it matters and it is always worth it to have gone when God says to go…because one heart is worth it. Always.

Because in His eyes, our offering, no matter how small or imperfect, is worthy. Because He is the Planter and Nurturer of the dreams placed in your heart…of the abilities you are given for His glory. Because He is the Author of our lives…the Perfecter of our faith…the Redeemer of our souls…the Healer of our broken places.

Because the words I write to comfort a grieving heart are more valuable to Him than anything grand or mighty I may attempt to accomplish in the world’s eyes. Because the song I quietly sing in the hospital room over the tiny babies in the arms of their mother are perhaps more sacred to the One who sits on the throne than those I sing to a full house.

Because every heart…every life matters.

For more about the book, Sufficient Grace, click here.

When You’re Feeling More Like Discouraged Elijah Than Wonder Woman

Weary souls wandering, stumbling through your days. This post is for you.

The last couple weeks, I have endured a wave of spiritual attacks on all fronts…both outwardly, in the form of circumstances, but even more so, within. It wasn’t long, before I went from feeling like a Wonder Woman Grace Rebel dodging bullets….i.e. No weapon formed against you will prosper (see Isaiah)…

wonder woman bullets

To discouraged, defeated, depleted, wanting to give it all up and throw in the towel, Elijah…


Do you see him there? Not even able to lift his head.

That was me, a couple days ago…heavy with despair…burdens…and relentless-accuser-spewing-lies-in-your-face-discouragement. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally. Done.

Have you been there, in that pit?

Elijah has. I have.

In his mind…After being rewarded for his dedication to serving the Lord by being hunted down as his life is threatened, Elijah feels so alone. So done.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!” (I Kings 19:4)

He doesn’t even want to go on. He wants to quit all of it. Even his own life. (Don’t worry…I wasn’t ready to quit life.) But, I have been there. And, so has Elijah…the great prophet, zealous for God. He doesn’t look so zealous in the picture, does he? Remember that picture. Because life on planet earth…and even life as a servant of the Most High God may hold moments more like discouraged Elijah than we realize…than we Christians will often admit.

So what does God do, when his little son or daughter lays alone in the wilderness, unable to lift his (her) head?

Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. And the angel[b] of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.”
~ I Kings 19:5-7

He sends an angel to minister to Elijah…to feed him when he cannot go find food for himself. To strengthen him when he is too weak to life his head. Why…because the journey is too great for you. For me. For Elijah. The journey is too great.

Just that He knows that. Just that He sees, the Lifter of my head…sees. He doesn’t expect me to be able to handle this journey. He knows it is too great for me. So, when I fall. When I curl up and retreat to the pits of despair, feeling all the heavy that was never meant for my shoulders to bear the weight of…He comes, to feed me. To nourish me. To tell me He sees. He knows.

After Elijah eats, he is strengthened for a time. Then retreats again to a cave. God asks Elijah…

What are doing here?

So he (Elijah) said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life.”

I’ve served you Lord…with all my heart. And, everything is falling apart around me. I am alone. Hunted down. Weakened. Attacked. And…left alone. All I can see are the ways I fall short. Defeat. Discouragement.

Should I even be doing this? None of this was in the plan. I wonder if part of what Elijah is really saying is, “Have I lost favor with you as well? Why is this being to allowed to happen? Have I failed? I’m in this cave, hiding…because I don’t know what to do.”

Then He (God) said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.
I Kings 19:11-12

God wasn’t in all the noise. The accusations, the loud and whipping winds, the broken circumstances, the doubt, the storm, the fire, the pain. He was in the still, small voice.

The steady, never-changing, always faithful, truth-filled, peace-breathing…still, small voice.

Sometimes, nothing makes sense, and we just have to curl up in a cave for a bit, and listen past the noise…for the still, small voice…the only One strong enough to quiet it all.

It is good to remember who our God is.

When Human Beings Disappoint

I’m one of those people. You know the ones.

I like to believe the best about people…to believe that others will do what they say they will do. And that they will be the people they profess to be. You can imagine the disappointment experienced on a daily basis from this assumption.

It is a difficult thing, and placing expectations on another soul is never a good idea. Not unless you enjoy disappointment. In that case, by all means. Still…shouldn’t we strive to keep our word, to be the who we say we are? If we can, on most occasions…shouldn’t we?

Something lately, I’ve been wrestling with, is not only the disappointment that occurs when others take an unexpected path, or fail to keep their word. Even as I type those words, I am convicted, myself, about the times when I let someone else down. I wonder if others feel the same conviction. I would like to think so…you know, believing the best, and all. I suppose we can’t do a lot about the motives in the heart of another. Ours is only to wonder. We cannot fully know. Only God can.

It is something I’ve watched often, even in circles of ministry and serving. Motives that start pure, or seem to…and then go awry or grow weary, or get distracted…or plans that sometimes get snatched away completely. It causes me to consider how important it is to abide closely to the Lord, listening intently, waiting on His timing…and not grasping something that isn’t yet ours to hold…before it’s time.

We human beings do that from time to time. I’ve been surprised by that…the grasping. It never fits quite as well, as when we wait on the Lord. His plans are always better, anyway.

As far as the motives of people’s hearts…I like what The Voice has to say in I Corinthians 4:5:

“So resist the temptation to act as judges before all the evidence is in. When the Lord comes, He will draw our buried motives, thoughts, and deeds (even things we don’t know or admit to ourselves) out of the dark shadows of our hearts into His light. When this happens, the voice of God will speak to each of us the only praise that will ever matter.”

It can be a painful thing, when someone else has displayed wrong motives, taken something that wasn’t theirs to hold yet, wounded you with false promises, unmet expectations, leaving you disappointed.

But God knows. God sees.

The thing is, some people’s ways are all messed up. And, some choices leave a path of broken trailing behind them.

Psalm 37 is great one for reflecting on how to work through that broken trail.
The Voice ~ Psalm 37:1-2
Don’t be worried with evil workers
or envy the gains of people with all-wrong-upside-down ways.
Soon enough they will wither like grass,
like green herbs fading in summer’s heat.

And, Psalm 37 NKJ
Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,

The narrow path is a lonely one to walk. Opportunities to gain resources, popularity, finances…there are so many ways to gain such advances through compromise dangled in front of us like a carrot on a string. We could choose that path and prosper in our way much quicker as well. But, it is much better to wait on the Lord, to resist the temptation to grasp what He has not yet given. Watching others prosper as they make such choices can lead to discouragement. Best to remember, instead, the One who gives completely and securely when He gives it…the One with an unshakeable foundation. To dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Trust Him…do not fret.

Remember His ways are not our ways…but they are much better.

Lydia Brownback says it well:
“We can get a lot of things by sidestepping God’s ways, but whatever we get in wrong ways will bring only more misery.”

Instead of comparing, or allowing wounds to fester….though it may genuinely grieve our spirit to watch…better to wait on the Lord. Better always to rest in His ways.

The Wounding Human Beings Inflict…and What to Do With all the Broken

We who wander on planet earth have all been wounded at some point by another human being. The deepest cuts, the ones that take the longest to heal, are from those we love. We all wound one another at some point. With our words, our actions, our indifference.

We all take the sacred gift one offers when she gives a piece of her heart, allowing another human being to tiptoe in, and inflict harm whether on purpose or inadvertently. Because we’re flawed. We speak from our broken places. We revisit our own wounds. We have moments of self-seeking, self-protection, self-preservation…that have nothing to do with loving one another.

People you barely know may speak words or exhibit behaviors that sting. Those closest to you, however, hold the sharpest weapons. They know your weak places. They know how to shoot an arrow so specifically to inflict the most damage. What is left behind…broken trust, broken hearts, broken fellowship. A whole lot of broken.

And from a spiritual standpoint, there is one who studies you and me…studies and waits for an opportune time, to whisper his accusations in the ear of the vessel doing the accusing…to divide…to destroy…to tear down what God is building up in us. And, in our hurt…we listen… to both the accusing vessel…and the reaction of the accused. We listen to the harmful words that tear down.

I’ve been wounded. And, I’ve done some wounding.

I think if we’re all honest, we’ve been on both sides of the battlefield. Those gifted with words can unleash the deadliest of insults. What does the scripture say about blessing out of one side of your mouth, and cursing with the other? We do it, as human beings.

Ironically this same tongue can be both an instrument of blessing to our Lord and Father and a weapon that hurls curses upon others who are created in God’s own image. 10 One mouth streams forth both blessings and curses. My brothers and sisters, this is not how it should be. 11 Does a spring gush crystal clear freshwater and moments later spurt out bitter salt water? ~ James 3:9-11 The Voice

And, when we’re wounded, we justify our reactions, lashing out like an animal in a cage, fighting back. Well…he hurt me. I have to protect myself. She let me down. I had every right. I’m not the one who threw the first verbal punch. At least I didn’t (fill in the blank).

I spent some time on my patio recently…something I haven’t done enough lately…indicative by recent failings to control my own tongue, my own reactions when backed into a corner dripping from wounds. On my patio, I received the kind of spanking a loving Father gives when His daughter’s heart is bent for a wayward path. Oswald Chambers is a good vessel for the truth-talking, no nonsense, lie dispelling necessary when one has spent way too much time listening to the accuser.

The wounds hurt. I won’t lie. They hurt and the words roll around in your mind long after they’ve been flung your way, piercing the outer layer…to the inner layer. But, that hurt is no excuse.

Because, we are called to die. Die to ourselves. Lay down our lives for a friend. Love dies to self. To the rights we think we have. To the justification we feel we’re due. To the need to speak our case, right the wrongs, claim our value.

It is humbling. It is excruciating. It is impossible without the prompting and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Especially when the words, the hurts inflicted…were soooo wrong. So unprovoked. Underserved.

I’m pretty sure the Savior I serve knows something about unprovoked, underserved wounds.

Humbling. Conviction.

So, when I brought my broken to the patio, my list of “look what so-and-so did to me, Dad” to my heavenly Father, in the ugliest of self-justified, victim-y whines, he answered with a gentle, life-giving, freeing spanking.

“From our Lord’s standpoint it does not matter whether I am defrauded or not; what does matter is that I do not defraud. Am I insisting on my rights? (In marriage, in friendship, with family, with children, at work)…or am I paying what I owe from Jesus Christ’s standpoint?”

“Do the thing quickly, bring yourself to judgment now, In moral and spiritual matters, you must do it at once; if you do not the inexorable process will begin to work. God is determined to have His child pure and clean and white as driven snow, and as long as there is disobedience in any point of His teaching, He will prevent none of the working of His spirit. Our insistence in proving that we are right is nearly always an indication that there has been some disobedience…
Agree with your adversary quickly. Have you suddenly turned a corner in any relationship and found that you had anger in your heart? Confess it quickly, quickly put it right before God, be reconciled to that one – do it now.”

As I typed those words from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest, I am thinking of the one who has been repeatedly harmed or abused in dangerous ways. Neither I, nor God is commanding you in those cases to physically be reconciled (unless He works such a healing), but in your heart…in my heart…He is saying release that anger…forgive…be reconciled…in your own heart.

Forgiveness is a gift more for the one doing the forgiving. A healthy, freeing, healing release. For you. For the one laying it down, dying to self…even if you deserved so much more…and were not in any way deserving of such pain. If you cannot have restoration with the relationship (as is not always possible or best), you can still have healing in your own heart.

And, if it isn’t too late, if you haven’t spoken words that you can’t take back, lay it all down the next time someone you love spews the ugly your way. Lay it all down, first.

And, set yourself free.

For we all have our broken places…as Oswald Chambers reminds in another entry:
“There never has been a saint yet who did not have to live a maimed (broken) life to start with. But it is better to enter into life maimed and lovely in God’s sight than to be lovely in man’s sight and lame in God’s.”

He can always heal our broken places more completely than we can we strive to do so with our own devices. After all, He’s an expert at creating beauty from the broken.