Tag Archives: Prayer

Infinitely More

Today, I get a gold star for bravery. Two nights ago there was a shriek from my daughter’s bedroom and she came flying out the door proclaiming a GIANT spider had just run across her floor. She declared that until it was found and killed she was vacating the premises. Since Dad has been out of town she has been sharing my bed at night and she has been taking her phone calls in her brothers room due to the hazardous conditions of her own. GIANT spiders are serious business.  Today (only because laundry needed done I didn’t really want to find it!) I went on a hunting expedition through the discarded blankets and dirty clothes on the floor.  I picked each piece up gingerly and shook out away from my body so as not to die if touched by the GIANT spider unknowingly.   As I neared the closet I found the GIANT spider at the same time as I knocked into closet door, knocking it off the track and sending it clattering to the wood floor.  Let’s just say I might have jumped and let out a bit of a startled yell…maybe…just a little bit…before slowly backing away, finding a large wooden sign and smashing the GIANT spider. The room has now been declared clear and safe for re-entry and as I said, I get the gold star for bravery.

Seriously though, brave is a really hard thing to be some days (even when spiders aren’t involved.)  Following God in obedience is not for the faint of heart. BUT, I am seeing first hand that this is the place where the “Infinitely More” of Ephesians 3:20 lies.

“We aren’t having a store.  A store doesn’t make sense. We just can’t do it.” I can’t tell you how many times in the short span of the life of Do Good Studio that I said these words to my sister.  Man plans…God laughs.  do-good-coming-soon

Guess what is opening in less than two weeks? Yes. The Do Good Studio in their very own storefront and God could not be more in this. I just simply said “Yes” and moved out of the way for Him to work.  I didn’t make a spreadsheet and calculate the risk and hedge my bets.  I prayed, “God if you are in this work this out.” Since then, I have discovered the Infinitely More and it doesn’t look anything like I thought it would.  In just the last week alone He has used the store to answer the prayers of two different families.  Each with the same thread of obedience behind their prayers of wanting to use their gifts of furniture making for His glory, each seeking Him for an outlet for their inventory, and us, needing help to fill an entire store.  He had woven us together long before we even knew what was happening and man, do we have some really amazing pieces to compliment the rest of the Do Good inventory.

Today, on the day I signed the lease for the store, my phone rang and I said “Yes!” to speaking to a group of 250 high school students from around the state at a Teen Leadership conference the same week that the store will open.  They wanted me to share our story of turning “What if?” into “We can.” and “We have.” They want us to tell our story and show these kids how service can just look like loving on people. This group wants to know how THEY can come along side us and help US with volunteers, with collecting items for donation, with the potential for a Love Runners/teen mission trip on the horizon. I just can’t even…INFINITELY MORE.

I am humbled by a God who is so good and so big.  A God who cares so much for our hearts and our dreams.  A God who, when we get brave and follow His call, introduces us to the Infinitely More.

What is God asking you to do? What have you said “No. Never.” to? What would happen if you said yes? Can I encourage you to pray about it and if God continues to stir your heart over it put your Grown-Up-Spider-Crushing-Bravery-Pants and go for it! It’s scary but…

“All glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

He just needs you to say Yes.

If you want to come visit us please do! I would love to have a cup of coffee and introduce you to the Studio.  Get all the details at our website or like us on facebook to keep up to date on all of the happenings.

Just Whatever.

Hey mom, are my socks still in your purse?

Yes.  Yes they are along with your “summer reading” book.  Maybe you would like to read some of that?

No? Yeah, that’s pretty much what I thought.

summer reading
Yep.  That is page 2, 2 days before school starts.

Doesn’t every mom need an extra pair of their children’s athletic socks in their purse? I am also carrying 18 or so football discount cards that need sold/delivered, school supply lists, a bag of trail mix, coupons I never remember to use, and a fistful of receipts that you never know if you might need. But, not one writing utensil. My purse has become the equivalent of a new mother’s diaper bag except for teenagers. I have been a mom for almost 17 years.  Where does time go? We just seem to morph from one stage to the next and they keep coming faster and faster and it’s hard to keep your feet underneath you.

Today is our 12th first day of school and this morning the only back to school tears belong to me. Maybe it is because the dog has explosive diarrhea (sorry if this is oversharing) or maybe it’s because of this.

2016 back to school

jeep hair
Hoods up because jeep hair doesn’t work for school.

This is the first year that I am not the one do the back to school driving.  I am so over this. And before the day has even begun I received a text about a forgotten book from one kid and another with a question about the proper homeroom from the other.  We are batting 1000 already.

Maybe it’s because I am masochistic (like my love for the movies Steel Magnolias and Beaches) but I have watched this video year after year (multiple times already this morning) and every time it makes my heart hurt a little more…I just need to feel all the feels today. And eat more double chocolate butter braid.  Yes, definitely more butter braid.

I want more first days, a lot more. I know they are mine for just a moment, but they are yours for eternity. Keep them safe God, and if you would, just fill in the gaps with the things I forgot to say because I was too busy or too distracted. That would be great. That would be really, really, great.

Wishing you all a wonderful day no matter where this back to school season finds you.



  I am a firefighter. This was not what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. But for the last 3 weeks I have been busy putting out pop-up brushfires that just will not die. And I was not wrong in not choosing this profession.

Living on the fly and adjusting plans at the last moment to accommodate my new firefighting profession has left my pantry empty and my brain an addled mess.

Indulge me while I paint you a picture. Last Friday night we did an amazing thing. The Low Country Boil hosted by Love Runners, Do Good Studio, and Captain Montague’s Bed and Breakfast was a rousing success for the children of Casa Bernabe. (In fact, we had to put a waiting list together for people who want to be first in line to buy tickets to our Black Tie for Black Shoes Christmas event the first weekend of December. More on all of this later.)  IMG_7177IMG_7133

BUT, the days leading up to this event began the outbreak of fires, Dehydration, Faulty Alarms, and Tomorrow’s Celebration. It didn’t stop there though. On the morning of our low country boil my daughter and I ended up in a ditch with only 3 of our 4 car wheels touching the ground. After getting the tents, tables, and decorations set up for dinner a thunderstorm blew through, taking everything (tents included) and throwing them around and drenching them. The day after the dinner we were back in the ER for more blood tests after another post-football health episode. Monday afternoon got lit up when we had to abort our school and grocery shopping because we learned of a moved volleyball practice 10 minutes before it was to start when we were over an hour away (and sitting in the stylists’ chair for a haircut.) The grocery trip that isn’t to be was again thwarted Tuesday by another doctors appointment. Today holds blood tests and tomorrow two more appointments (my funny skin kid, not to be outdone by her brother, has developed a funny skin thing prompting an additional specialist to add to the week’s list.) We’ve had two check engine lights, (one on a rental car!) a leaky tire, and a partridge in a pear tree.  Even now I am forced to type this on my phone because it continues to fail to load on my computer.



As I was making an effort to tidy the piles I have on the counters I picked up a book my two-year old niece wanted me to read to her when she visited two weeks ago, Fervent by Priscilla Shirer. (I probably need to dig out some of the kids old books.) As I absently flipped through it my highlighted passages began jumping out at me and I gained a much needed reminder of how I need to be battling these blazes.

This is war. The fight of your life. A very real enemy has been strategizing and scheming against you, assaulting you, coming after your emotions, your mind, your man, your child, your future. But I say his reign of terror stops here. Stops now. He might keep coming, but he won’t have victory anymore. Because it all starts failing when we start praying.

Success, to him, means stirring up discord in your home, your church, your workplace, your neighborhood, and doing it in such a way that no one’s even aware he’s been in the building. He knows our natural, physical response is to start coming after each other instead of him – attacking, counterattacking, pointing fingers, assigning blame-while he sits out in the driveway monitoring the clamor inside, fiendishly rubbing his hands together, admiring just how adept he is…and what easy targets we are.

If all we’re doing is whacking at the nearest, most visible symptoms every time they pop their head up, we’re doing two things: (1) wasting precious time and energy that ought to be reserved and refocused on the real enemy, and (2) trying to fight ferocious spiritual forces by using weapons that don’t faze them in the least – weapons that aren’t even designed to hurt them.  So the hits just keep on coming.

He wants you to focus on the things that are physical and visible instead of where the action really is. The enemy who’s intent on disrupting the peace in your home doesn’t flinch when you try to force your own fixes upon it, but he does start worrying when a wife, a mother, a daughter, or a sister starts avoiding the noise at the periphery and starts making some noise of her own, right outside the door to the devil’s workshop.

Last Saturday when we came out of the emergency room there was a full double rainbow stretched over the parking lot.  It was a little reminder to me that we weren’t alone in this. God hasn’t forgotten us or the periphery brushfires that keep alighting.  It was also a reminder to me that while I am busy trying to put out the fires  I need to remember Him and not get lost in it all



Just Say No…

to back to school!

This is a campaign that I feel like starting this year.  I want to JUST SAY NO! No, you can’t have my kids back yet. No, we are not going to be doing homework while the sun shines outside.  No, I am sorry, we just aren’t ready to check back into reality yet.  I need to have them for just a little bit longer.  Summer isn’t over yet, in fact, the weather is just now starting to feel like it’s arrived. The fun hasn’t all been had!

The back-to-school grumblings have been voiced by us all but the only tears this year have been mine. Another season of change lies ahead and the pieces of my babies that belonged to me becomes less and less every year and the letting go is so hard.

Can someone please tell me when this happened?  A whole decade has passed since our first, 1st day of school.

IMG_3614IMG_3613 Change…this is where our journey is going to begin and I would love to have you join me. This has been building in my heart over the last couple of weeks, “Project Choice” with ideas like Thankful Boxes and Everyday Letters.  It’s about trying to find your place again if you’ve lost your bearings.  It’s about sharing, and remembering, everyday life.  It’s about searching for something bigger than just comfortable.

But for this morning, before I clean up from our disjointed, first-day-back-trying-to-get-out-the-door-on-time-mess, I am going to take a moment and linger over these pictures and first day memories for a little bit. Mamas, it happens so fast, so just hold on.

And, because this is one of my favorites, every word of it ringing true in my heart…grab a tissue (or the whole box)

Poems, Prayers, and Promises

kidsLast Friday night found me driving with a car of sleeping kids, caravaning north for a short weekend away.  It has been longer than I can remember since I have been putting midnight highway miles behind me. As Friday melted into Saturday I was taking a trip down memory lane.  Without anyone to protest my choice of music I had chosen John Denver in a moment of nostalgia.  The very music my dad would listen to as we headed away on summer adventures.  The very music I would have been squawking about having to listen to from the backseat once upon a time.  But it just seemed right and I could still sing every word and with those words and midnight miles, and I am sure sleep deprived delirium, there was a storm of crashing emotions.

The days they pass so quickly now
Nights are seldom long…
The changes somehow frighten me
Still I have to smile…
For though my life’s been good to me
There’s still so much to do
So many things my mind has never known*

This summer is flying by in a blur of sports and laundry, camps and mowing, and stolen weekends away like the one we were headed on. And the changes? They are numerous, but the most recent is that we have a new driver in our house.  Parents who have been through this, why didn’t you warn those of us journeying behind you that the view from the passenger seat with a teenager driving is such a terrifying thing?!

This very weekend we were traveling with our kids friends in tow, leaving my husband and I staring at each other, saying, “Now what?” It’s just us, left in the dust on the sidewalk, as the kids walk on ahead, laughing and tumbling all over each other. We headed to the lake without the mountain of sand toys and shady pop-up beach tents. (They still made fun of me for all the bags I had packed although no one was complaining when they were eating the food!)   We haven’t had a vacation like this ever and it’s beautiful and heart-wrenching at the same time.

We are also quickly hurtling towards a school year where elementary school is in the rear view mirror and we have begun discussions of what to do after high school.  The “what I want to be when I grow up” talk.  ARGH! But now it’s for real, not dreamy astronaut wishes and I think this talk may be one of the worst.

But there is still so much to do.  There is so much I want to be sure they know and bury in their hearts.  We are working so hard to pass on the legacy of faith and family that was gifted to us.  And that’s why, as I listen to John Denver, I just pray that what we’re teaching is sticking.  That although they may not always appear to be listening or watching or liking it, I pray that they are getting it.

I just want to gather my kids and all of their friends and keep them here for just a little bit longer.  I want to press pause on summer and spend more late nights laughing with them.  I want more afternoons on the lake without schedules to stick to.  I want more evenings of grabbing ice cream and walking behind them on the sidewalk. I have read the articles about raising kids and letting them go and they make me cry.  I have read the lists of things you should do and shouldn’t do, the debates on the best practices for discipline and they are all valid, all important.  I am not an expert (or even close as I confessed in “My kids are doing a really good job of raising themselves.”) and I am not going to impart advice other than to say, just love them.  Listen to them, share life with them and pray that in doing so one day they will look back knowing that it’s the little things that helped shape them into the people that they have become.

I continued to drive and ponder the words of John Denver, thinking about my parents and my grandparents, thankful for all that they gave and taught, for their influence and the gift of memories, in this place of the past and the future crashing around in my head…

And talk of poems and prayers and promises
And things that we believe in
How sweet it is to love someone
How right it is to care
How long it’s been since yesterday
What about tomorrow
What about our dreams
And all the memories we share…*

Here’s to enjoying what’s left of summer, dreaming of the future and taking some time to remember!

*Poems, Prayers, and Promises, John Denver

Is Jesus alone enough?


I am working my way through Alan Stadtmiller’s book, Praying For Your Elephants for the second time because of excerpts like the one above. Challenging, with substance and biblical backing and deeper than the fluff and “sound bites” that so many of today’s Christian books fall back on, this book has nailed my heart with conviction time and again.

Stadtmiller goes on to say, “Let me ask you a tougher question. It’s a question that makes people put down books that don’t make them feel good, but it is a question that must be asked. Is Jesus alone enough for you?”

I know my “church answer” to these questions but let’s be real and honest because this struggle is real and “church answers” aren’t always our heart truth. This is the place of scary-change-me-God prayers. The place of self-dream sacrifice so that we might live the life we were meant to not the life we’ve planned. So my answer is, I want Him to be. I want to be able to answer in heartfelt honesty -YES!!!

I challenge you today to sit with these questions for awhile. Spend some time just soaking in them.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. (‭Philippians‬ ‭4‬:‭10-13‬ NLT)

Deer Lord, Rifle-Shot Prayers

This is for all of my deer hunter friends. A little hunting season homage to praying without ceasing.
deer lordI love the light-hearted look that the Skit Guys put on this (I am pretty sure I have uttered some of those same Deer Lord prayers.) I also wanted to share with you some real words of encouragement, a real life guide to prayer, that I have gone back to many times since first hearing this message from Matt Chandler. In this sermon from 2013 he is studying from the book of Nehemiah and introduces us to two essential types of prayer, big block prayer and rifle-shot prayer.

First up, big block prayer…

You have a big block of prayer. You have this kind of set-aside block of prayer. If you have a background in church, in your teenage years you were taught it. It was called a “quiet time,” that you are to set a part of your day aside for the sole purpose of being in the Word of God and praying.

I always thought we probably should have named it something other than “quiet time.” That sounds a little bit like discipline, like you’re in trouble. “You get in the corner and think about that.” We probably could have done better at that, but it’s called a quiet time, a set time of your day you are to just commune with God in Bible study and prayer.

And then there are what Chandler has dubbed rifle-shot prayers…

What I want you to notice is also on top of this communion with God that was day and night, this set-aside time, you also had these kind of rifle-shot prayers. “Okay, God. I prayed about this earlier today.” It’s a rifle-shot prayer. So you have these two kinds of prayers being established here, where you have a built-out set of time just between you and the Lord, and then you have these little rifle-shot communications throughout the day.

If you have a set time where you’re saying, “I’m going to pray, I’m going to lay these things before the Lord,” wouldn’t it make sense that it would overflow as you… Let’s take that guy at work you don’t like. Let’s take him, whoever he or she is. You have that person at work you kind of struggle with being kind to, having compassion for, showing patience toward.

If in your prayer time in the morning you say, “Lord, help me with this person. I just do not care for them. I know you love me and I have ugly stuff in me, but I just lack patience with this person,” and then you say, “Amen,” and you get in your car, and there’s Bill walking up to you as soon as you walk in, you’re aware, “I’ve laid this before the Lord.” Now you can Nehemiah rifle shot and go, Here we go, Lord. Here we go. “Bill, how are you? Are you doing all right? No, I can’t have lunch. Good to see you this morning, though, Bill. Blessings,” and then run and lock your door and hide behind the desk. Those little blocks bleed out into the rest of your life.

Now, if we were honest, for relationships to really flourish and have a lot of vibrancy, both of these are necessary. If human relationships work this way, how much more do our relationships with our heavenly Father work this way? Here’s what I’m saying. If you don’t have a set block or you don’t rifle shot prayer, I’m not saying you’re not a believer. I’m just saying the vibrancy of your relationship with God has suffered. You’re not robbing God; you’re robbing you, because to behold Jesus, to have a relationship with God, is to be transformed by him. I fear so many of us are stuck in bad patterns simply because we won’t connect with the relational component we’ve been rescued into. If you’re thinking morally and not relationally, you’re thinking wrongly.

Now, I want to say this, because I believe it’s true and it’s helpful. You will live your life or it will live you. You are never going to fill your spaces with prayer…ever. If you get an hour to kill, if an hour opens up… I don’t even know if that would happen in your world. It rarely happens in mine that “I have an hour here with nothing to do. How should I fill it?” If that happens to you, you will never fill that with prayer. You’re going to catch up on The Walking Dead. You’re going to do whatever else it is you do, but you’re not going to fill that hour with prayer.

I’ll tell you why. Because there is a war, a spiritual war and tear occurring about you connecting relationally with God. If all God is is an ambiguous idea to you that you love…you love the idea of God, but not necessarily love God and have a relationship with God…transformation is slow or doesn’t happen at all. So you begin to be churchgoers who are not walking in the fullness of life God has brought about in Christ.

But if you connect relationally with God, if you set aside periods of time to pray and consider and then from there have that overflow into the rest of the areas of your life, now we’re moving. Now transformation is occurring. Now you’re a bit dangerous to what is evil and dark in the world. If you don’t think our Enemy has a vested interest in us not praying, then you’re walking in some foolishness. That’s why you don’t fill your space with prayer. That’s why this is a struggle.

Prayer is one of those really weird things. I’ve said this over and over again. We all know we should. No one in this room right now is going, “Wait a minute. Are you saying…? You cannot be saying that as a Christian I’m meant to pray.” I just don’t think anyone is doing that. We know we should, but we’ve taken this poll (about seven times since I’ve been the pastor here) about how well we’re doing at that, and we generally have a consensus in the room that we stink at it.

So here’s the way I want to encourage you this week. If you’re one who struggles with setting aside a block of time, you’re going to have to say, “This is when I’m going to do it.” If you don’t, you’re not going to do it. Here’s what I would encourage you. Don’t try to go Michael Jordan right off the bat. Don’t go, “I’m going to set aside an hour a day this week.” Go for it if you want, but I’m saying I’ve seen guys come into the gym and set aside an hour of hard labor and then haven’t ever seen them again. They’re somewhere in an ice bath.

What I would do if I were you is set aside 5 or 10 minutes. You have 5 or 10 minutes. Set aside 5 or 10 minutes just to pray to the Lord, and part of that prayer needs to be, “Help me be mindful of you during the day.” One of the things I do is pray my calendar. I’m praying for the meetings I’m going into. I’m laying those things before the Lord, so that when those meetings come, I get to circle back around and do the rifle shot and go, “Okay, Lord, I laid these things before you. Recall to my mind, strengthen my heart, give me the courage I need,” and then I move into the meeting.

You need to get in your head now, “This is when I’m going to do that,” or you’re not going to do it. Then don’t make it law. If you make it law and you miss for this reason or that reason, then you broke the law and you’re not going to have a tendency to go back, if it’s just, “This is when I set aside time to pray.” Listen. I’m going to throw this out there. I miss sometimes. I have my little block that occurs right after I get up in the morning, and there have been times, because of situations or scenarios or other things, I miss that time.

I don’t think in that moment God is like, “You make me sick.” I think the blood of Christ covers that, and I’m going to rifle shot prayer that day, and I’m going to wake up the next morning and start over, and the mercies of God will be new. God will not be disappointed, although I do believe he’s a jealous God who longs for time with us. You’ll have to set out a little section to do this, or it’s simply never going to occur. You don’t need to view it as law, and you don’t need to view it as “Jordan-esque.” You need to start somewhere small and let it build. That’s how everything good works.

Then maybe you’ll get up to like a Calvin and Luther, praying an hour and a half a day or something. All right? I don’t know. But it should start small and sustainable, and let the Lord grow it from there. Don’t overestimate your own awesomeness. If you can take the posture, “I really stink at this,” then you can set up goals that are attainable. If you think, “I should be able to do what people who have been following Christ for 30 years should be able to do,” then I love you, but you’re a fool.

Don’t overestimate your own awesomeness…but don’t let your life live you either. Just start the conversation and you will be amazed what happens.

Dear Lord…

“My kids are doing a really good job of raising themselves.”

Yes.  You read that correctly and yes, those words did actually come out of my mouth.  The scary thing is that I really meant them.  I said this after our son decided (all on his own) in 8th grade that he wasn’t dating anyone until Sophomore year. A self-imposed dating ban that I have grabbed a hold of and remind him of from time to time.  But he had decided that he didn’t want the pressures of dating and that there was plenty of time for that down the road. Huh?!  Now you are beginning to have an understanding of why I said what I said.

Never, have I ever felt so wholly unequipped to do a job.  My husband and I have had this conversation many times.  I look at these two growing, maturing people that God has blessed me with and I am in awe and totally in over my head. I believe that this is part of God’s plan. We need God’s help and guidance in this if we are going to get it right.  And we don’t always get it right but we have learned to own up to our mistakes, apologize and ask forgiveness, especially as parents.  Humbling ourselves before God and our kids.  You don’t have to be perfect in our house, just forgiving.

I have learned (and re-learned in some cases) so much for and from my kids. Algebra, sentence diagramming, and then there is this…”Hey mom, what do a deaf person’s thoughts sound like?  Our thoughts are framed in our minds as spoken words but if you have never heard words how could you form a thought?” Wait, what? You cannot ask me this question at 9:30 at night when my brain is mush and expect me to wrap my mind around it let alone have an answer.  And then, “Well, what about colors?  I see the trees in what I call green, but what if my green looks like your purple?  We would never know because it’s what I have always called green and you have always called purple.”  Heaven help me…I’ve got nothing.  We’re just going to have to Google it.  When I do this…when I listen, look up, teach, I am giving them my time, my attention.  Even if I don’t have the answers I am giving them something of me

kidsHere is where this gets bigger, they don’t realize this but they are constantly pushing me to be a better version of myself. I think of Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” They are causing me to dig deeper, to be on my face in front of God begging Him to make me the mother they need and constantly laying them down before Him.  Let me tell you, as a parent, for me, this is where it begins and ends, at the foot of the throne.  Without God, all of my talking, preaching, begging, and cajoling will amount to nothing.

…we need to intercede for our children.  Pray that they will make the right friends and the right choices.  Pray that their conscience will keep them on the straight and narrow.  Pray that they won’t just survive; pray that they will thrive.  If your kids have a difficult time discerning or doing the will of God, you may even have to agonize in prayer for them like Jesus did in Gethsemane.  This kind of prayer is part of parenting.  You’ve got to pay the price – and the price is blood, sweat, and tears. (Praying Circles around Your Children, Mark Batterson, emphasis mine)(This, by the way, is a great short read)

I admit that I don’t feel like I know what I am doing.  I feel like I am making this up as I am going so please don’t mistake this for an attempt at parenting advice.  I have always, always sworn that is one topic I would avoid other than to say, get on your knees.  That’s all I’ve got.  With God as our guide I can assure you we will stumble and bumble our way to adulthood.  I don’t know what struggles or obstacles lie ahead of us only that they do.  Those uncertain, scary days may be where you find yourself on this journey, and I again go to the words of Mark Batterson for a reminder of encouragement.

Even when things look hopeless and you feel helpless, you need to keep circling the promises of God.  I’m not saying that God will override the free will of our children, but He can do a miracle in their hearts…Is there a lot of healing that must still take place?  Absolutely.  You don’t solve ten years of problems in ten minutes or ten days.  I’m not saying that God cannot bring immediate healing or instantaneous deliverance, but we often have to get out of problems the way we got into them – one step at a time.  Prayer is the first step.  And that one small step can turn into a giant leap.

A child should never be tormented by things as nebulous as their own thoughts.  That is where our daughter found herself this past summer and her torment absolutely shredded my heart.  She faced down her own personal demons through massive amounts of prayer and support and hand-holding (both hers and ours.)  She wrote these words to me which are an encouragement that it’s the little things that are making a difference.  We don’t have to be superhero parents…offer an ear, a hug, let them know they are loved and that they are being prayed for.  My kids are they way they are by the grace of God, despite my inadequacies.

Mom, you have all the qualities that make a great mother and your hard works makes you an even greater mom.  You have the warmest hug ever.  I will always need you and you will always be there for me.  You pray for me to live a good Christian life and you show me how to live a good Christian life.  When I see you smile, I always feel better.  You have loved me, and will continue to love me for years to come.  You have always given me kisses no matter what.  You are such a beautiful woman and I want to grow up to be just like you…

Blood, sweat, and many, many tears.  God is doing an amazing work. My kids are doing a really good job of raising themselves.  And, me? Well, I am just thankful to have a front row seat in all of it. (My husband says he is thankful to have not been thrown out of the theater for throwing popcorn at the screen.)

We interrupt this Christmas celebration to bring you back to reality…

Have yourself a merry little Christmas.  Let your heart light.  From now on our troubles will be out of sight.

Stop!  Time out! Someone forgot to notify our troubles that it is Christmas and that because of this nostalgic song and the season that we find ourselves in, they are supposed to magically disappear.
Today, I want to introduce you to someone who interrupted our holiday preparations.  Our tiny Hannah. This sweet little baby made her entrance into this world one week ago at 26 weeks into my sister-in-law’s pregnancy.  At only 13 inches long and just 2 lbs 6 oz, she magnifies the miracle of life and the mighty and merciful God that we serve.  The doctors have nicknamed her “Little Tiger” for her already evident strength of spirit.  After years spent praying for a child, this dream pregnancy had been anything but.  The first trimester was spent battling nausea and vomiting.  Then came a terrifying diagnosis of Amniotic Band Syndrome (ABS) that brought all of us to our knees. ABS occurs when the fetus becomes entangled in fibrous string-like amniotic bands in the womb, restricting blood flow and affecting the baby’s development, causing anything from limb amputation and cleft palate, to club feet, or miscarriage.  Two weeks ago, during a bi-weekly ABS ultrasound it was discovered that Hannah’s mom was two centimeters dilated and beginning to efface.  The doctors did what they could to prevent labor and prepare and protect the baby but four days later Hannah’s mom’s water broke and after being rushed to one of the leading neonatal hospitals in the country Hannah made her appearance in this world.  And in joyful praise, Hannah is perfect.  The ABS didn’t affect her at all, and may very well have saved her life because of the increased monitoring.  Hannah’s story has only just begun but God’s merciful hand of protection on her is increasingly evident. In an answer to prayer and a display of God’s power,  Hannah spent only 14 hours on  the ventilator and has since been breathing on her own.  Every day is a milestone with challenges and questions, victories and sometimes set backs but there is no doubt that her little life is already bringing God glory.  God is already using her in a very mighty way!

Seeing Hannah lying in the NICU, hooked to machines beeping and monitoring, you can’t help but be overcome.  She has captured my heart while at the same time  pricking it in a way I never thought I would have known.  Looking at her tiny, fragile body, I can’t help but think of my own son, delivered at 32 weeks, who never had the opportunity at life.  The mix of emotions over the last week has been tumultuous.  I only share this insight as an explanation of the lens through which I share Hannah’s story.  I have had difficult moments claiming that “it is well with my soul” this week, with unrest billowing and rolling, always just under the surface, for these young parents, waiting and watching and holding their breath, afraid for the very life of their sweet little baby, not knowing what the next hour, let alone day is going to bring.  Having been on the other side of this story my heart is in anguish, knowing too well all that they fear, but finding comfort in the confidence of our God, who is holding all of this together.

So, I come back to the words of the song above, let your heart be light.  This is after all, the season for joy. The season for a plastic smile and a shiny veneer of holiday cheer.  But what happens when you find yourself picking up the pieces of your dreams, having to revert to Plan B before you even knew you needed a Plan B.  This is when real life interrupts the idealist version of Christmas.

This week, through Hannah’s story,  I want to share with you another picture of Christmas.  A picture of peace and hope, comfort and joy, in the midst of real life, delivered into a manger on that first Christmas.  These promises fulfilled through the birth of a tiny baby.

She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'” (Matthew 1:23)

In the meantime and in the days going forward, will you join me in praying for “Little Tiger” Hannah and her parents and doctors?20131208-211411.jpg
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. (Psalm 107:28-30)



Pray without ceasing…this is a phrase we like to throw around. “Oh, you are going through some tough times?” After we get done telling others that God will work all things for their good (When You Need More Than A Band-Aid Verse,) we tell them to pray without ceasing. Or we guilt people into prayer. “How is your prayer life? How long do you spend a day in prayer? You know, we are called to pray without ceasing.” So what does this even mean? I am glad you asked. Here is my take on it…

What I believe this verse to be talking about is a lifestyle, an attitude. Prayer is so much more than us thanking God and then dumping a list of requests at his feet. This attitude is relational. Praying without ceasing is letting God into your day. It’s including Him, throughout the day, thinking of Him, thanking Him, meditating on His promises, asking for His help, and worshiping Him.

Pastor Matt Chandler has a wonderful take on this. He talks about the rhythm of our day, this ebb and flow of communication that should be happening. Pulling aside time to spend in prayer and in God’s Word are integral but so are what he calls the “rifle shot prayers.” These are the prayers we throw heavenward during the day. This is when you say, “Hey God, this is it. I prayed about this earlier. I really need you to be with me now as I face this co-worker, this trial, this temptation, you fill in the blank.” I would venture to guess that most of do better with the “rifle-shot” requests than recognizing and offering thanks for the blessings, both those big and small throughout the day. It’s this constant flow of communication, carrying God with you throughout your day. Both forms are necessary for the vibrancy of your relationship. One type feeds the other.

Today, make a concerted effort to pray without ceasing. Invite God into your day. Listen to the Holy Spirit’s prompting to pray and know that God is with you and for you. And if you don’t do so well? It’s ok, tomorrow is a new day.