My Unwelcome House Guest

Girl using her drone for filiming videos

So fear doesn’t just pack up and leave a body alone.

Jesus tells a tale of a person who had an evil spirit. The person, depicted as a home, was “empty, swept, and in order” (Matthew 12:44). That spirit returned with a host of friends to an emptied-out house all tidied up and made ready for him.

Fear is just that way. We kick it out, board up the windows, clean the cobwebs out of the corners…and then what?

The moment the door is opened a crack, all the fears come swarming back in, more numerous than before.

We can’t leave our hearts open like uninhabited rooms, ready for any whim to rush in and capture us. The room has to be inhabited. In that same chapter of Matthew, Jesus said, “ For who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house” (Matthew 12:29 NLT).

We can’t just enter the strong house of fear and plunder it. We can’t just chase it out with a broom. We can’t take over the enemy camp without a stronger army to overthrow it.

And we can’t evict fear without something to put in its place. If we try to just root out the bad without replacing it with something else, we will find ourselves assaulting a fortress without an invading army.

Who is going to hold the fort once it is taken?

In Matthew 12, Jesus is the Someone Stronger. He is the invader who has plundered Satan’s stronghold of sin in our hearts. That strong man has been tied up and his house has been plundered by the work of Jesus on the cross. The fullness of Him is the only thing able to fill up the spaces of our cleaned-out rooms.

When He fills us, there is no vacuum for sin to rush into.

Theologian Abraham Kuyper said it this way: “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!”

“Mine!” he declares over our hearts, every square inch.

When we get rid of something, we have to replace it with something. Physicists calls it horror vacui. Nature abhors a vacuum.

Sanctification abhors a vacuum too–we don’t become like Jesus just by sloughing off our sins (although we are helpless to even get that far without God’s power!)

Following Him isn’t just about who we aren’t anymore–it is all about who we are now.

“Live no longer as the Gentiles do, for they are hopelessly confused. Their minds are full of darkness; they wander far from the life God gives because they have closed their minds and hardened their hearts against him. They have no sense of shame. They live for lustful pleasure and eagerly practice every kind of impurity. 

But that isn’t what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

– Ephesians 4:17b-24, NLT –

Put off, put on. Stop something and start something else.

Take off fear and dress yourself in something good to replace it.

But what? What can I put in place of my fear? 


I set up myself to study fear in 2018. I knew from the beginning that, by drawing this line in the sand, I would launch myself on a frightening journey. How could I not?

I was throwing open cobwebbed cabinets and pounding the dust out of the fear-filled rugs of my existence. Dirt was bound to fly. Fear was bound to be raised. A challenge to my fearless declaration was bound to come. I was nipping at the strong man’s ankles and just daring him to come and get me.

A month and a half into my new year, I’m not sure the assault has let up since the ball dropped and 2018 began.

I began the year uncertain of what adventures would come next, thinking that fearless meant the adventure was about to arrive with at least a certainty of the next move.

Halfway into February, I haven’t the foggiest of what’s coming next.

Worse, I barely know what to want anymore. My hopes and dreams could go any number of directions, if it only knew which path will pan out. I’ve lifted up an open, prayerful heart again and again. I’ve pursued the next thing, unsure what direction life will take in the next moment.

Literally living from day to day as I have never had to do before, terror has not been far away.  I used to know what the next 6 months would contain. Today, I barely know what I will do tomorrow, much less next week.

Fearless was supposed to be a victory declaration. Instead, it was a battle cry.

I declared war on the anxiety in my heart, anything keeping me back from a whole-hearted embrace of the glorious liberty of Jesus, and any secret whispers of inadequacy holding me back from what He wants from my present and future.

The fear often settles over me like a cloud of sad restlessness. I start losing sight of what I love. I stop being able to see the beauty. Even as I give mental assent to my God’s plan, my heart turns to anxiety to keep me safe. If I can somehow apprehend this narrow road, if I can just wrap my mind around all the possibilities, if I can prepare my heart to survive any scenario, maybe…just maybe…I can make it through all this uncertainty.

So, in practice, I come back to this thought: What can replace fear in the spaces of my soul? Instead of the habit of anxiety, what habit can I, by grace, cultivate to make my Jesus glad? What can take root in my heart instead of the cold taproot of fear?

Verses trip through my heart:

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

“Perfect love casts out fear.”

“I will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is fixed on me, because he trusts in me. Trust in the Lord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.”

“Cast all your cares on him, for he cares for you.”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear?”

Jesus never leaves me alone with my fear. To the terrified, the first word are always these: Do not fear!

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’” Mark 6:50

“Jesus told him, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” Mark 5:36

Last night, I read through the She Reads Truth Lent 2018 study, Day 5. As I read God’s words to Moses, I underlined everything God did in response to His people’s needs and paraphrased His words to His beloved ones:

“Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.’” Revelation 1:17

“Do not be afraid. I Am before all the terrors and problems and pains and fears.

I AM, and will still be standing in victory, after all those things fade and crumble and slip away into nameless defeat.

Do not be afraid.

I see you. I hear you, I know. I have come down to rescue and bring you to somewhere good and spacious. I see how you are being treated, I will be with you. I have already sent help. I have paid close attention to what has been done to you. I have promised you that I will bring you up from the misery. I have met with you. I have a plan. I have people already on the way to you. I am paying attention.

Don’t you know My power? I am the Resurrection–the power of all life exploding from the most hopeless state a human heart can experience. I am the Life, the Writer of the Eternally Happy Ending that awakes only after the Misunderstood and All-Hope’s-Lost Tragedy.”

What is strong enough to replace fear in my heart?

Only Jesus, dwelling in my heart by faith (Eph. 3:17).

Belief-saturated praise is the habit that kicks out anxiety, as I fix my eyes on the Source of all perfect love and peace.

Listen up, everyone! The Strongest Man is in the house!

Don’t you see?

Fear doesn’t have a chance in the world.

Love has won.




January Break

Hello dear girls! Somehow it’s February 6th already, and somehow I didn’t post a single syllable in January.

Blogging is very dear to me. I love sharing my thoughts and life lessons with you. Not only do I pray that my words are encouraging to you all, but blogging also gives me the opportunity to discover what I think.

“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”
― Flannery O’Connor

God has been stretching me in many ways in recent days, and sometimes I come to the computer with only the whispers of ideas, hoping I can come up with some lesson worth sharing out of the many half-baked ones that He is still teaching me.

If you won’t give up on me, sweet readers, I hope and pray I’ll be back soon with some more tales of my heart.

Until then, “…let the mighty strength of the Lord make you strong” (Eph. 6:10, CEV).

He is up to something marvelous.

A Child’s Expectation



 “Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect unexpected things, above all that we ask or think. Each time, before you Intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!”

 – Andrew Murray –

Ann Voskamp says she likes to read a lot of books at once because “the books start talking to each other.”

Or in my case, a two books, a psychology course, a Bible study, and a friend all started having a conversation.

I am not typically a cynical person. I tend to see the bright lining of every cloud and the possibility hiding beneath a dusty surface. I dream and hope and generally think the best of almost everyone and everything.

But not too long ago, I found myself giving in. I’ve seen a lot of things in the past few years, and they started to get to me.

Driving around a curve in the Ozark Mountains, I mulled it over to myself. “Maybe God just doesn’t work in those ways in reality,” I started to believe. “Maybe this is growing up. Losing the naiveté that expects anything to happen.”

I started to loosen my grasp on expectation. Instead, I started to expect less out of grim situations. At the best, I saw the dreaded slowness of possible change. It was all very drab and slow and grim. But I felt a slight satisfaction. At least I was growing up.

That is, until I realized something.

What kind of crazy world is this, where I need to lose a little faith in order to measure up? What kind of game was I playing with myself, getting satisfaction out of dimmed hope? And what kind of strange, awful thing was it to stop expecting good things to happen?

I don’t want to be Pollyanna. I don’t want to be annoyingly buoyant.

I want to go back. I want to go forward. I just want the eyes to see the possible again.

I’ve been reading a book about how our minds work called Thinking Fast and Slowby Daniel Kahneman. He talks about something called the availability heuristic. This means that we humans tend to answer questions based on what we can quickly think of. If I asked you to estimate how many stray dogs live in your city, you would probably use the availability heuristic to answer me. First, you would stop and think of all the stray dogs you have seen recently. If you haven’t seen any, you would guess a number a lot lower than a person who has seen 3 this week in their own neighborhood.

We can do that with God too. “God, I really haven’t seen You do something like this lately. How am I supposed to know that You really do it at all?”

Fill in the blank. Does God save marriages on the brink? Does He drastically call and redeem lost people? Does He really give help to the ragged and torn? Does He really protect, deliver, heal?

If you haven’t seen it lately, maybe your availability heuristic is answering for you. “Nope, God’s not in that business anymore,” your mind tells you. “I can’t remember a time when that happened.”

But, see, there’s a problem with the availability heuristic: it’s inaccurate. Just like your neighborhood might be a bad sampling of how many strays are in your town, so your recent memory might be a pretty awful indicator of the power and plan of our Father.

Let’s talk probability. Is it more probable or less probably that God will make something beautiful out of your situation? Well, that’s pretty good odds, since He always 100% pulls through on that promise.

But what about that falling-to-pieces relationship, or that unsaved family member?

What kind of God do we serve? He’s not some powerless or uninspired Deity that sits back and watches. He’s involved in our lives. And last time I checked, a broken home, difficult person, or stubborn situation wasn’t a challenge for him.

So what’s the probability that He will do something in your situation? Well, 100%.

And what’s the probability that He will do something amazing and glorious?

I’d say it’s pretty good.

See, my cynicism isn’t about growing up after all. It’s about faith.

My friend Liz says that a car taking off into the air and flying is a perfectly reasonable expectation to a child. They aren’t so tied down by assumptions. Anything is possible. Today in Bible study, Liz and I read the account of Isaac’s birth… a totally miraculous impossibility. But it was possible…with God.

Do I expect the Lord to part the heavens and start sending me direct revelation? No. He’s already given me all the Word I need for living. But is it ridiculous for me to expect Him to be living and active in my life? Is it odd for me to have hope for the seemingly-impossible and hopelessly-broken situations around me?

Is it crazy, or naive, or Pollyanna-like to expect a limitless God to make amazing changes in lives?

If I stop believing that God works, I must stop believing His promises. And if I stop believing Him…not one speck of this life is worth living.

So, I am taking a step.

Not into natural optimism. Not into jaded cynicism.

Into faith that actually believes. Childlike belief in a God who still does impossible miracles every day in hearts and souls.

What am I, if I do not believe this?

The same power that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us. So, I believe.

I believe God is definitely, doubtlessly, undeniably up to something good. Whether I can see it coming or whether it blows me away.

And Jesus said to him, “‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.”

 – Mark 9:23, NASB –








Today’s Joys


“What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them.”
― Emily P. FreemanSimply Tuesday ―

This week I have enjoyed the quiet company of old friends, the exuberant and spontaneous hospitality of strangers, an enormous rainbow emblazoned like a banner of love over my head, and the breeze ruffling my hair when I rode with the window down. I have felt the surge of looking-ahead, of wonderings and musings…and I keep trying to pull myself back.

“Thank you,” I whisper. “For this, right now.”

Why must I always compare this moment to something that was or something that will be?

It’s too easy to cling to the past seasons, or wistfully wait on what’s coming next…but it’s not very easy to just lay these things aside and embrace the fullness of Now. Today. This solitary, sacred moment. This is the only time I will have this moment in my grasp, and even as I possess it, it slips through my eager fingers like air.

More than just a sentimental connection with the moment, I want to grab hold of something. C.S. Lewis said that …”the Present is the point at which time touches eternity,” and I think it must be.

I have a tarnishing necklace with these words scrawled across the metal pendant: “Every day is a gift.” Maybe that is what I’m reaching for–to accept the gift of this day, the gift of this breath, with attention.

Have you ever seen a child bide his time, ripping open his many Christmas presents and tossing them aside as he waits for his parents to bring out the one gift he wants most. He may barely notice the other gifts as he unwraps them, because he isn’t really looking at them at all. He is really only thinking of one thing–and that one thing is something he does not yet hold in his hands.

I’m afraid I’m like that. I frantically unwrap seconds of my life, pile minutes into unnoticed heaps, stack hours on fast-filling shelves, file away days in the back of a drawer…and I forget to look at them twice as I fling the new-moment wrapping aside and plunge ahead to the “bigger gifts” I hope I can unwrap soon.

But lately…I’ve been trying to learn. My moments come and go faster than breaths, quieter than glances, but I reach out to accept more of them as they pass.

My bones chill with the temporary wonder of each breath. Joy breaks over me like laughter. Even pain invades my moments with something like joy itself–as if the love mixes with the pain to grow a heart larger and roomier than it was before. To make more room in it, perhaps, for more mingled laughter and tears.

I’m seeing the tiny wonders more clearly. People and relationships I often take for granted. The smallest of yellow flowers along the hiking trail. The tone of concern in a friend’s voice. The tears shed across tables and across miles. A rainbow that makes me laugh aloud, painted across the gray. The small graces of a Redeemer who seams my moments together with invisible, invincible thread.

I reach out for these small graces, because they are a way to lift up my face and smile thanks for another undeserved moment. They are a soundtrack for my worship. They are my cue to whisper praise.

So then, my lesson for today is joy.

Joy, in this very next gift of a breath.

Thank you.

“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

 – Matthew 7:11, ESV –

Season’s Change


My blog informs me that it has been a month since I’ve written…and what a month it has been. A month ago, I started writing a post on autumn and change…and it rings even truer today than it did when I began.

For more than three years, I’ve tried to blog weekly. Earlier this year, it slipped to every other week. Now, I don’t know when I will write..and I think that’s okay. Sometimes I may write weekly…other times, weeks may slip by. Life is changing, teaching me things, and I pray that I will still find the words to share these moments with you…and that you will stick with me and keep reading.

Thank you for 3 1/2 years of joy. Here’s to many, many more.

This is my favorite autumn.

I’ve had twenty-three of them–almost a quarter-century of changing seasons.

I’ve never leaned quite so hard into the crisping air, leaves shaking off the summer green, scents of spice and pine.

This is my favorite autumn and–quite unexpectedly–as the earth tips away from the sun, my seasons are changing with it.

I do not fear the autumnal shift into mist, short days, and frosty-orange mornings.

But I do fear this other litany of changes….

I love adventure, the bracing wind, the shivering thrill of unknown opportunities. But these opportunities seem to come in the form of deep sorrows and strained souls. Change isn’t all adventure and wild expectation. Part of me wants to snuggle deep into the autumn leaves and keep it autumn forever. Perhaps all the change swirling around me has a pause button. All I have to do it press it, and the leaves will freeze half-fallen in the air. My life will suspend in a quiet, eternal moment. Maybe I can just hit pause forever, and then things will never change.

Driving up a steep hill behind a lagging log truck the other day, I watched the leaves crouched on the roadside. As the crawling truck lumbered up the incline, the leaves bounced to their feet and tumbled into the road, dancing and swirling like an impromptu flash mob of giddy children. Since the truck was only going fifteen miles per hour and I had nothing better to do, I watched the waltzing leaves. They were golden in the morning sun, sweeping in carefree circles. They were asking me to dance.

I see the way the autumn falls around me.

It is really carefree, like an exhale.  The world lets go of her summer with such delight. She never seems to stop and cry for what she is giving up…I’ve never known the world to weep for a summer lost. I only see the way her face lights up with autumn gold and the way she gladly casts off her confetti leaves like she is welcoming home the frost.

And I stand in frost-air, tuck my hands in my pockets, and wish I could let go of seasons as well as the world does.

I am trying to stare into unknown corridors of life and see where my choices might take me. Time spent here, hours worked there, memories made everywhere…each of these is a deliberate spending of a season, and each of these is a choice I must continue to make, even as things change around me.

Is anything drastically reshaping my life? No…maybe not yet. But little by little I feel the change of the wind. Frost begins to blow in even now, and my blushing leaves are rattling to let go and join the blustery dance.

“To everything there is a season,” Ecclesiastes reminds me.

Leaves drift down, and I want to let go and fly gaily with them.

I once wrote about living with open hands…and this is like that. Autumn is teaching me how to let go and trust that a good season will follow.

If the whole world entrusts herself to her Maker, who am I to doubt the timing of His seasons?  Summer will fade into Fall, and Fall will chill the air for Winter. And we all know what comes after the death of Winter…the whole earth bursts into life again.

Each of my seasons, too, paves the way for the next. Will it be a better season? It’s hard to say, I think. Maybe it gets better as it goes along, but a dear friend of mine in her 70s says it best. “Every age is the best age,” she tells me.

I think she is right. This is the best age, the best Fall, the best season I have known.

And the next one will be the best too, because my Jesus leads the way. And I’ve never known Him to fail me.

So, with the leaves, I too let go and join the dance of expectation.

“This means tremendous joy to you, I know, even though you are temporarily harassed by all kinds of trials and temptations. This is no accident—it happens to prove your faith, which is infinitely more valuable than gold, and gold, as you know, even though it is ultimately perishable, must be purified by fire. This proving of your faith is planned to bring you praise and honour and glory in the day when Jesus Christ reveals himself. And though you have never seen him, yet I know that you love him. At present you trust him without being able to see him, and even now he brings you a joy that words cannot express and which has in it a hint of the glories of Heaven; and all the time you are receiving the result of your faith in him—the salvation of your own souls.”

 – Phillips paraphrase from 1 Peter 1:6-9 –



Living Already


“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”

 – Omar Khayyam –

Don’t miss it.

I know you dreamers, because I am one. This is what I’m saying to me today, and to you today.

Let’s not miss the life we actually have while we’re busy looking through pictures of other people’s lives–their best moments–caught on film. And we compare ourselves to that, and we live in that world, a world of people’s best moments sewn together like a patchwork quilt of reality. And then we look at our own reality, and it doesn’t seem to quite measure up

We spend hours on Pinterest and Facebook, looking at all the things people are doing and the places they’re going, and the things they have.

On Pinterest, we save all the things we’d like to get or do for ourselves…and we forget the things we already have. The things we are actually doing. The places we actually go every day.

In books, we take adventures, make friends, come to love characters. When I finish a book, I often wish the characters were real, because I love them so much. I would never be one to criticize reading, that’s for sure…but I wonder. Is this another place where we can accrue to ourselves people that we like, people who we identify with…and then forget that there are already people in our lives who, like it or not, are ours? People whom we are not just asked, but commanded to love, by the God who loved us first.

We dreamers can live in the future…all the roads yet traveled, all of the beautiful things yet to be seen or touched. The beautiful family we might one day have. The wonderful people we might one day know.

And we forget the simple magic of the hum of our tires on the roads that we travel day in and day out.

Lost in dreaming, we can lock ourselves away form the hard work of making relationships here and now. Relationships that are strong. Relationships that matter.

And I’m as guilty of this as the next person. I’ve pinned up all of the future glories that I dream of. I mean, I’ve spent hours pinning pictures of boots. Short boots, tall boots, ankle boots, knee boots…and it’s not even that that’s bad.

It’s just…today I woke up and the boots I’m wearing are the ones that were already in my closet.

And the way I did my hair is the way that I always do my hair.

And my fake little imaginary world didn’t change that.

I can drive down the road that I drive a couple times a week, not even seeing it. I’ve let myself grow dull to it. I’m so busy thinking about Pinterest-board trips that I don’t stop to enjoy the one that I’m on today.  I told myself that I’m tired of this road.

But why am I so tired of it? I don’t want to be.

Maybe it’s because I keep looking for the bigger and the better and the next and the someday.

I think that’s it. Someday.

It’s not even that I don’t like this road…it’s that I’m too busy thinking about the next one.

So, to all you dreamers out there like me, please. All we have, all that’s been promised to us, is today. This road. This family. These people’s love. These moments. These realities.

Please don’t stop dreaming. But remember that those dreams are just that…dreams. They’re not real yet. And if they do become real one day, enjoy them then.

I don’t think they will taste nearly as sweet if we wring all the enjoyment out of them before we even get to them.

I’m not so scared of my dreams not coming true. I’m more scared of missing the dreams come true that I already have, that I’ve forgotten were once dreams, because they’re real now. And maybe when they’re real, we dreamers go to the next dream.

I don’t want to be like that.

Today, this dreamer is going to live in today.

And tomorrow this dreamer is going to live in tomorrow

And I’ll keep pinning the pretty boots on Pinterest, and I’ll keep budgeting for long vacations, and I’ll keep dreaming about what it would be like to have a special family of my own one of these days. I’ll smile and I’ll dream. I’ll always keep dreaming.

But I won’t forget that I already have a family of my own–a different kind, but my very own. And I already have boots that I really like. And I already go places with people I love.

Thank you Lord, for the alreadys.

And help me not forget where I really live.

Maybe this is called contentment. Learning to live and love where you are.

Today. Already. Now.

 “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 
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 4:11b-13, NIV –

The Lesson of the Peony




“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 
and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.”
 – 1 Peter 1:3-4a, NIV –

Today, my friend Lizzie and I drove back and forth across town on a wild treasure hunt for a flower.

I’ve never grown peonies before , but I’m reading Roots and Sky by Christie Purifoy and her Instagram photos of impossibly-delightful peonies inspire me. Fall is in the air, and with it, my dreams of fluffy, dreamy, extravagant blossoms awaiting in the next gardening year.

So I needed a peony.

Now, my town is quite small. Only the arrival of tourists a few times a year manages to tip us over 3,000 people. “Driving across town” only takes about ten minutes. And our gardening options were very limited. We started with our favorite all-American corporate chain, proceeded to a grocery store with a tiny, empty 8×8 greenhouse, checked the lumber store’s collection of plants –actually the most impressive thus far–then drove to the local farm supply. It was our last great hope. But alas. No peonies in the whole town.

We thought our search was in vain. I picked up a few discount packets of seeds in a distant hope of spring planting and waited in the farm supply line to check out…and then the lady standing next to us overheard us lamenting our fruitless search. “There’s peonies at the lumber store,” she says. We explain that we had already looked there, among the spring bulbs. “They aren’t displayed with the bulbs,” she tells us. “She has them in pots.”

Liz whips out her phone and calls the lumber store greenhouse. Sure enough, they have a whole collection of $12.99 peonies.

Back across town we go and there they are…a cluster of black pots with tiny, gnarled, crispy-leaved plants tucked into the top layer of dirt, poking up little wrinkled limbs well past their prime. The tag promises a giant, perfectly-coral blossom.

“They die back in the fall and go dormant in the winter,” the gardener explains. “They’ll come back in the spring.”

So I buy a big black pot with a tiny, crusty-edged leaf hanging on to a twisted root half-unearthed. It costs $12.99. Almost thirteen dollars for a dying hope that won’t blossom at all until later.

I hand over a $20 bill and continue to pepper the woman with questions about how to care for this tiny, twisted hope. “Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t bloom for a few seasons,” she smiles. “It has to get big enough first.”

I nod and let my mind wander to a possible planting place. I’m dreamy with thoughts of spring.

So Liz and I load up the almost-vacant plastic pot into the back of the van and drive home. We grin because our treasure hunt was not in vain. I think finding a treasure after a long hunt must be the best part of an adventure.

The peony plant is safely tucked into the garage now, waiting for me to decide on a sunny growing place for it to call home. As I go about my day, I keep thinking back to that tiny, twiggy promise of a plant. People look at it doubtfully, because it really looks like the dying end of something.

My heart keeps jumping when I remember that this is not a dead and dying thing. My peony is a living hope. It is quiet and sleepy and browning. But it is alive. Something stirs in me when I think that the whole glorious potential of a 3-foot tall bush brimming with giant coral blossoms lies dormant in this dead-looking twig.

My peony keeps telling me stories, because it is itself a story, and a tying-together of my story.

I have no idea what tomorrow brings, what I will do in a year, or what changes may crop up moment by moment. While still a fragile, uncertain thing itself, the potential of the peony teaches me about steady things that anchor us in the middle of the ups and downs of life.

Planting this little whisper of spring is like putting down my roots and saying, “I will be fully here, as long as I am here.” It is a reminder that what I do today lasts, even as the moments fade away. It is a reminder that my Jesus put me here now, for this season.

This peony teaches me that there is an overarching story to the moments that I string together like pearls. Unique and tiny as each moment is, it is adding up to something bigger.

Sometimes I think anxiously about the future, wondering what it will bring.

But something about the peony ties my today and my tomorrow together in a rhythmic strength. Spring will come, as long as the earth remains, and when that spring comes, this dead-looking twig will jump to life and burst up with joy and blossom out in abundance.

And I smile when I think that all this life is packed into the wispy, fading, half-buried root waiting in my garage.

Lizzie says that maybe we are not just planting the peony. Maybe the peony is planting  us, down deep into life. Deep into faith in One who chases winter away every year with a new resurrection of creation.

“Spring will come,” the peony whispers. “There is more life here than you could ever imagine.”

“Look, the winter is past,
    and the rains are over and gone.
The flowers are springing up,
    the season of singing birds has come,
    and the cooing of turtledoves fills the air.

 – Song of Solomon 2:11-12, NLT –

Lying-Awake Nights


I’m lying in bed and it’s 11:31 p.m.

And my face is sticky, because I’ve been crying into my pillow. My nose is dripping. I’m hoping to avoid a mirror for a while. Good thing it’s dark in here.

I keep rubbing the back of my neck, hoping for the words to well up again.

All I hear is “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” It’s playing from my computer speakers, speaking to me in a language I’ve known so long. The words that I know by heart echo inside me, even though all I hear are simple piano notes.

It’s like my heart knows the way home, even when I’m tired and it’s dark and all is ajar.

I’ve been praying my thoughts with Psalmist-like honesty. I know that I’m not alone in these nights. How many of you, my friends, have also laid awake in bed kept awake by your fears?

I keep finding myself on the edge of a negotiation with God:

“Lord, I know you’re in control. I just don’t know what that means for me. What does that mean You’ll do? I trust that You’re good…but how does that help this situation? I still don’t know what You’re going to do. What if it’s painful? What if it hurts someone I love? What if Your plan isn’t the one I want? If You’re going to do what You want anyway, does it do any good for me to pray for what I want?

You know, at least for me tonight, I’m not really asking God if He’s in control.

I’m not even asking Him if He’s good.

I’m asking if He cares about what I care about. I want to know if He loves my hurting friend as much as I do. I want to know if He cares about my future as much as I do. I know He’s powerful and working out all that is good.

I just want to know how that applies to me right now.

On nights like tonight, the built-up emotions swirl in me until I’m left dry and tired.

But I lifted my head out of a soggy pillow in sudden joy and grabbed for my computer to tell you this story.

As I prayed gut-wrenching prayers, the knowledge stole over me.

“Lord, you love this friend more than I do.”

“Jesus, You don’t withhold anything good from me, not for one minute more than necessary. Something else better is happening right now, or this waiting would be over.”

THIS is what can sustain me through a night of tears. It’s not just that He rules and plans. The thing that puts my heart to rest is that HE LOVES ME! He loves me, He loves my people, and He cares about the things that weigh on my heart.

The idea of distantly-loving and powerful God doesn’t do much for me. But a personally-involved and caring One? He is a God I can rest in.

So I sniff and wipe my tears and smile in the dark.

“Rock of Ages” plays now. I will hide myself in Him.

“Rock of Ages, cleft for me. Let me hide myself in Thee…

Nothing in my hand I bring
Simply to thy cross I cling.”

 – Augustus Toplady –




Doing Battle


I wrote this post a few months ago, but I found it recently and thought it was still so applicable to my life..and, I believe, to yours. When we embrace the Good News of an alive and present Savior, how can it not change the way we see everything? Yes, today we do battle…but do not fear. He has already overcome, and is overcoming, and will yet overcome.

“We aren’t fighting against human enemies but against rulers, authorities, forces of cosmic darkness, and spiritual powers of evil in the heavens.”

 – Ephesians 6:12, CEB –

Have you ever been on your knees, doing battle?

Today, I was.

“Certain thoughts are prayers,” author Victor Hugo wrote. “There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.”

Although physically I was walking around the house, doing dishes, and trying to figure out the computer language HTML, my soul was truly on its knees.

Doing battle in your life means seeing how the present circumstances reach far beyond what you can see. Doing battle means taking everything to God. Doing battle means recognizing that you are not enough for what you face today. It means spiritual warfare, through prayer and Scripture reading.

Today, I was doing battle for a friend confronted with a difficult relationship. Some days, I am doing battle for my own heart, or for a situation close to my heart.

Over the past few years, God has brought several mentorship opportunities into my life, and I am completely in love with it. Mentorship teaches me something: Life just doesn’t work without Jesus.

I can encourage you, and you could walk away unchanged. But if God comes into the picture with His encouragement, neither one of us will walk away unchanged.

Christian mentorship–also known as discipleship–is like this. It is not enough for me to give someone a pep talk. Pep talks are powerless for real change. For habits to change, for hearts to heal, for attitudes to reorient, God has to step in.

 That’s what doing battle is all about. Real encouragement goes deeper than the surface, all the way down into the soul of things.

As we imitate Christ and bring His knowledge and love into situations, the tangled strings of life start to untangle. When your life is constructed around the framework and centrality of Jesus, the pieces fit together in a certain way. Life, although still hard, works. While not perfect or trouble-free by any stretch of the imagination, our God is so great that He is enough for even stormy seas. It’s not that the storms go away…but the vessel is equipped to sail on through the waves.

When a person’s life is built around anything other than Jesus Christ, life’s pieces don’t match up. Each person pieces together their own custom patchwork lens for viewing the world. There are holes between the pieces. There are inadequacies when storms hit. Just like the sand-foundation house in Jesus’s parable, their life system fails them, and “great is its fall” (Matthew 7:27).

When someone tells me about the way someone hurt them, or a friend shares about their hard day, I have a choice. I can skim the surface, or I can take their hand and point to Jesus.

Here is what I am learning:

The most vital part of Christian encouragement is doing battle.

When we acknowledge that life only works with Jesus at the helm, and we recognize that the people around us are shipwrecking their souls based on lies, there is only one remedy.

That remedy is Jesus.

Telling what our Jesus did, how He makes the pieces fit, is called the Gospel. Really, discipleship is just applying this Gospel to every aspect of our lives.

This is where the battle is. Gospel-sharing discipleship is a spiritual battlefield, because that’s where Satan attacks God’s glory.

Encouraging words can only go so far. They don’t have power to change souls–unless God’s own Word is part of our encouragement vocabulary. This is where mantras and  “girl power” speeches fall short. If inspiration’s power comes from you and me, people are in trouble. If we depend on humanity for the strength needed on the battlefield of life, we will fall. And great will be our fall.

There is power in the name of Jesus. And His name, His words, alone can break the chains of our past, our fears, our struggles, our failures, and our sins.

Do you want to encourage someone today?

Start on your knees.

And when you get up from your prayers for them, tell them about the Jesus who is both merciful Savior and conquering King.

It’s not just the lost who need the Gospel.

I need it. You need it. The Gospel is our lifeblood, and we should daily sing to each other the good news that Jesus saves us–not only at the moment we are made right with God, but He daily saves us and keeps us throughout eternity.

A pastor once asked his congregation how often they shared the Gospel with someone else. As we listened, my mom turned to me and whispered, “Does that count all the times we tell it to our people at home every day?”

Yes. Yes, it most certainly does.

You see, I don’t just want good news once, or once a week. I need Good News that covers every single breath of my life with light and hope.

So if you want to encourage someone, give them news that never stops being good: Jesus is alive. And His life can transform every minute of yours, without exception.

That’s where the battle is. This is where I stand my ground, in the transforming light of Christ.

Lift up your heads, my friends. Let’s do battle.

“Therefore, if the Son makes you free, you really will be free.”

 – John 8:36, CEB –

Starting Fresh


You know who you are.

You already know that God brings us through challenges and difficulties that stretch our faith and perseverance. Your mind is full of words like discipline, schedules, diligence, work, and productivity.

Like me, you already know that there are times for pressing on and going beyond the limits of our abilities. After all, God meets us there and bridges the gap between our small showing-up and His great plan with His own strength.

But, maybe, like me, you aren’t so good at balance.

You recite endurance and success and good works to your soul, and then your soul whispers these habits back to you any moment that you stop to rest.

“You aren’t being diligent…” “A good mother wouldn’t sleep this late…” “You don’t have time to stop. You have to finish this now…”

Could it be true? Could you just be lazy or undisciplined?

I don’t think I can answer that question for you, because I don’t know your heart. I can just tell you about my discovery about myself. I hope that it blessed you and helps you “run the race set before [you,] looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of [your] faith” (Hebrews 12:1).

Over-analysis is my specialty, especially over-analysis of myself.

Even this week, my mental to-do list kept piling up in my head. Never mind the things I’d already done. Never mind how tired I was or how bad I felt. Never mind the things that I valued most were getting done. I felt like a failure, even if I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong.

This happens to me a lot.

It is a super-narrow logic, a short-sighted rubric, that I feel pressured to conform my life to. In this mentality, “the way I’ve always done it” and “the right way to do it” is queen. Success is a completed to-do list, so I can prove productivity to myself and anyone else who might wonder what I do with myself.

If you catch me off-guard and ask me how my week was, I will flounder to remember what exactly I did that sounds productive enough to mention. “Well, I’m not really sure what I did. Our routine just fills up the days,” I might say. My internal success meter drops a little as I reflect on the difficulty of encapsulating just what exactly I do. “I’m really busy,” I might say. “There are a lot of little things.”

Even though I’m incandescently happy with my real life, the moments are often deep, spiritual, and defy quantifying.  What often happens is a draining paradox: complete satisfaction with what I actually do every day, combined with the nagging internal fear that I am never doing quite enough.  

Even if I know that I’m doing the best I can, in the back of my mind something unsettles me. Maybe I could do more. Maybe I should.

But, oh sisters, this endless circle of restless work is so unhelpful.

How much better it would be to get half the work done with joy! How much more could we glorify God if we weren’t pushing, cramming, and otherwise stuffing the day with activities?

And since when did we get the idea that humans are supposed to be untiring production robots?

I think God knew that His humans would fall into this ditch. Perhaps that’s part of why He set the standard so early. The universe wasn’t even a week old before He took a rest. Since I know He didn’t need a nap personally, I highly suspect that the lesson was for our benefit. All through the Old Testament, the seventh day was set forward as the resting day. Scheduled rest wasn’t just part of the culture—it was one of God’s commands. And, I wonder, was it a coincidence that rest and worship intersected on that day? That the day of ceasing labor was also the day of lifting praise?

In the New Testament, Christians met on the first day of the week instead of the seventh, and they were reminded of Christ, their true Sabbath Rest. Although they were urged to be zealous in their faith, Paul also encouraged them to live “peaceful and quiet lives, to mind your own business and to work with your hands” (1 Thessalonians 4:11).

Diligence is not the same thing as endless work.

Rest is not the same thing as laziness.

Success is not the same thing as production.

Abundant life is not the same thing as busyness.

So here’s what I’m learning.

When I get bogged down in the lure of unattainable productivity, I need to start fresh. You could call it a reset.

In the midst of life, balance is required and you won’t always be able to step out of the bustle and reset. But if you find yourself being your own slave driver, stop. Do something to quiet your soul and prepare you to step back into the game with grace. Take a few minutes in His word. Have your hands been busy? Fill your heart with something solid and true. Is your mind spinning? Quiet yourself before God, take a walk, sit down with a book you’ve been wanting to read, or brew a cup of tea and sit in silence. Don’t be afraid.

This is not the same thing as a selfish demand for self-indulgence. This is a thoughtful space where you can renew your body and mind so you can glorify God and love others well. This is a space where you discover that glorifying God in your body is not about how much you produced today, but about how much praise and honor your fervent love is bringing Him.

I hear it a lot, but I am a human being after all…not a human doing.

This is what the Gospel is about: our security in the identity of Jesus’ work, not our own. I usually remember that I’m not trying to earn my way into heaven…but I don’t always remember that I’m not trying to earn my way into happiness either.

As Gospel children, we don’t stop working when God rescues us, but we do stop working out of desperation. Our love powers our actions instead of our fear.

Author Sarah Young paraphrases the thoughts of God about our constant busyness:

“The world is so complex and overstimulating that you can easily lose your sense of direction. Doing countless unnecessary activities will dissipate your energy. When you spend time with Me, I restore your sense of direction. As you look to Me for guidance, I enable you to do less but accomplish more.” – Jesus Calling, page 252

That’s the beautiful paradox of rest. When we start fresh by refusing to give in to slave-driving fear and hurry, we go back to work with redoubled energy.

Don’t be afraid to slow down enough to actually enjoy God’s goodness and beauty, His “every good and perfect gift” as we travel through life (James 1:17). He really does give us all things to richly enjoy in this abundant life.

So stop. Take a breath. Remember why you work and Who you work for. Most of all, remember Who it is that accepts you because of His work, not yours.

And enjoy this beautiful, crazy adventure that you’ve been given.

It’s a marvelous one.

“Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

 – Psalm 46:10, NASB –