Here I Am, Lord

This Sunday, I am going to do something I have never done before. Something I never thought I would do. Something that makes the butterflies flutter all though my stomach just thinking about it.

I am going to stand in the pulpit of a church and deliver a sermon. I am going to preach.

On that December day when I opened the message on my phone and read the request from my pastor, I immediately thought two things. Either Lee is playing a joke on me, or he sent this to the wrong person. Neither of those two things were true. He was going to be gone for some much needed vacation time with his beautiful wife and wanted me to fill the pulpit while he was gone.

I have never felt a call to preach. I enjoy teaching, but to me, a sermon is very different than teaching a Bible study. I began to go through all the reasons why this was not a good idea.

  • I have no training, education or background. Could I even put a sermon together?
  • Who am I to stand in a pulpit and deliver a message? I have messed up more times that I can count. I am so unworthy.
  • Music is my thing……not preaching
  • What will our congregation think? This is not in my job description.
  • Why would anyone want to listen to anything I have to say?

To say I struggled with the decision is an understatement. Then I remembered the words of Isaiah 6. There was the prophet, in the presence of the LORD. His first thought? He was standing there, in the presence of the Lord, feeling ashamed, unclean, unworthy. He thought his time had come to die. Then he heard the voice of the LORD saying Who can I send? Who will go for us? And seemingly, without hesitation, Isaiah said, “Here I am, send me.”

So, here I am, a little more than 48 hours before I stand and try to deliver words that will lift someone, make someone think or perhaps just rest in the knowledge that their Creator made them and loves them. And right before I preach in one of our services, our choir will sing, “Here I am, Lord”. No, I didn’t ask for that song or plan for it to be sung. The Spirit just works that way sometimes. I hope I hear them sing it. It will confirm what I already know. To be obedient, we have to say…………..

Here I am, Lord………send me………


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New Year…..New Beginnings

For those readers who know me personally, you know 2017 was a year filled when disappointments, loss and great grief.

I watched my mother’s health quickly decline, resulting in her exit from this world in March.

Just a few short weeks later, I lost my job.

There was a cancer diagnosis for a family member.

I sold my childhood home.

I watched my children embrace some difficult choices and learn some of life’s hard lessons

There were some very good things, though, about 2017 that were eclipsed in the losses.

I embraced a new challenge.

I grew closer to my sister.

I learned I may only have a handful of friends, but they are committed, loving and fierce!

I became acquainted with a fantastic counselor who helped me see why I sometimes make detrimental choices, and helped me learn how to change the process.

I understood, in a brand new way, the idea of being still and waiting on God.

The most important part, though, was watching God’s providential hand guide me and work on my behalf. There is no way to describe what happened to me…….good and bad……. without gaining a new understanding that God truly ‘works all things together for good’………..(read Romans 8 for full context)

I have never been big on resolutions. It takes determination and hard work to change behaviors and patterns. There is nothing magical or new about turning the calendar over to a new year. I have some hopes and dreams for 2018, and I am bathing them in prayer, trusting the One who knows best for me and those I love.

With that being said, there are challenges I want to embrace in 2018. I want to live with a grateful heart. I want to continue to foster friendships and love. I want to embrace new ideas and thinking. I want to open my heart to the love of others. I hope to say “yes” to those things I have a true passion for, and I hope to say “no” when it is the right answer for my time and place. I want to be mindful that some of the grief and hurt of 2017 has come with me to 2018, and I need to continue to find my path to the resolution and know I will always grieve the loss of my parents in this world. I want to pour my heart into ministry opportunities, even when they don’t take the shape I think they should take, and I want to hear God’s voice and embrace His leadership, even when it doesn’t sound the way or go the direction I would hope. I hope to read more, hike more, and write more, and I plan to put the phone down more often and connect with the people and places I am in.

I WILL accept the fact that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of my Creator, and I am good enough……….


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Blue Christmas

What do you do when Christmas isn’t merry?

Do you “fake” it?

Do you anxiously anticipate when it will just all be over?

Do you tell people you’re miserable?

What do you do when it seems as if “Christmas Spirit” is an emotion shared by everyone…… but you?

I’ve had several different conversations over the last few weeks with folks who just aren’t “feeling it” this year.  The reasons are varied.  It could be the first year without a loved one, or perhaps relatives a long way away who can’t come home for the holiday this year.  For others, it is family discord and strife, while for a few it is the facing of yet another Christmas without someone significant to share the holiday. So, what do you do when the “most wonderful time of the year” is a long way from a wonderful “winter wonderland”?

You celebrate.  Even if you celebrate alone.

You give thanks.

You love those who surround you.  Even if everyone isn’t there.

You choose joy.  Even if you feel unhappy.

Life is seldom perfect, and the calendar changing over to the month of December doesn’t make all those imperfections suddenly disappear.  I understand, though, the importance of acknowledging that we don’t “feel it” but making the conscious decision to be thankful and graceful in spite of the circumstances. I understand that one day…….probably not tomorrow or next week or maybe even next year…….we are going to be thankful for the difficult times.  For it is in our most difficult circumstances that we cling tightly to our Savior.  It is in the dark that we look for His unmistakable light.  It is in diligently seeking that we find Him.

Please don’t shrug off your grief or hurt or disappointment.  Please don’t “fake it”, but do look to the One who created you as the beautiful, unique being that you are.  Embrace His love and His goodness. The circumstances of life will change from day-to-day, but constant always will be the true JOY found in God’s love for us.


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All Things Work Together

Grief…….. Such a small and easy word for such a complex topic.  There is nothing small or easy about grief.  All of us have experienced it, and all of us will experience it again. It hurts like nothing we have ever before felt. It grips our souls, controls our minds and emotions and demands to be dealt with eventually.

Grief……. The reality that loss is part of living.

As a society, we don’t handle the grief very well.  We usually do not give ourselves time to grieve, and we especially don’t give others the time they need to grieve. It is difficult to see people we care about in pain, so we want them to get on with life. When a loved one dies, we spend a couple of days mourning and saying goodbye, then it is over and life should return to normal. When a relationship ends, you can cry a little and eat your pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but only for a day or two. After all, there are other fish in the sea, and that one wasn’t good enough for you anyway. When the children leave the nest and break out on their own, that’s the happiest time for you. You finally have YOUR life back. Only you don’t, and unless you have experienced the loneliness of an empty house, you don’t understand. Difficult medical diagnosis? Let’s pray for a cure, or at least for comfort from pain. Job loss? Pick yourself up and get back out there. You have great skills to offer. Moving? Lose a beloved pet? Broken friendship? Divorce? Betrayed? Disappointed? These all cause a certain degree of grief. Why? Because either we have lost something/someone we loved or we have lost a dream of what could have been or both.

Grief is complicated. It’s not solved with a good cry or a beautiful funeral or your favorite comfort food. It is not healed by time alone. Although all these things might help. Grief is a process, and it is your process.

I have experienced grief in compounded ways over the last 6 months. My mother died. My 15-year job ended. Relationships and friendships changed and some ended. A family member was diagnosed with cancer.  And honestly, every time one of my children visit and then return to their home, I feel the loss and loneliness. I have had to make difficult decisions quickly because of these losses. I have needed to shake myself out of the grief sometimes in order to be of service to others and deal with daily life. Yes, I have had well-meaning friends express concern that I am “stuck.” However, I cannot simply bury the grief. It must be dealt with, and it takes whatever time it takes.

My go-to place has been my faith in a loving and good God.  Throughout this time, He has pointed me to two particular passages of scripture that I am holding on to with my every being.  I share them with you because either you are in a place of grief or someone you love is in a place of grief.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Psalm 37:4-5, 7 – Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.

As I have said in previous blogs, I have no idea where this journey will take me.  I do know, though, I need only be still, delight myself in a God who made me in his very image and wait patiently for his guidance and love. Because, truly, ALL THINGS work together for GOOD.


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Oh, For Grace to Trust You More

A sweet friend asked me once how I “talked to God.” My reply on that particular occasion was I just freely let my mind lift praises, thanks, needs, thoughts and worries toward heaven, having faith that God hears the voice of my heart. She asked if God ever responded. I said, yes, but I must stop talking in order to listen. Just as when I have a conversation with you, my friend, I must open my ears and heart to hear what you have to say.

At times of distress or grief or pain, words for prayers do not always come easily. We become bogged down by the cares of this world. Life gets hard. People disappoint us. Troubles come. We become more aware of the fragility of life. A plan we had so carefully mapped out for ourselves suddenly becomes very uncertain. How do you pray during those times?

Do you cry out to God with a raised fist and ask him “Why?”       Yes.

Do you allow the tears to fall freely down your face in silence and allow the Holy Spirit to make intercession for you?             Yes.

Do you beg for God to change your present circumstances?       Yes.

Do you ask others to make intercession for you?    Absolutely.

You do all those things and more……. why, you might ask?  Because God is big enough for our praises, our angry cries, our silent weeping and our pleas for help. He is the great and mighty One who shelters us under His arm. He is the suffering servant who also prayed, “let this cup pass from me.” And He is the great Comforter whose presence is never more than a whisper away.

After you have prayed those prayers of why and cried those silent tears, take great time to just Be Still in His presence. Allow His peace that passes all understanding to envelop your soul. I promise, His voice will pierce through the silence; a light will shine on the path to follow; and you can find perseverance and hope. Remember, though, this God who loves us so deeply, also allows us to make a choice. We can curl up in great grief and shut out the world, or we can follow the path, even when the darkness covers the next step. The answers aren’t always instant. The pain doesn’t immediately disappear. Faith, though, grows like a wildflower in springtime, and we become aware there is something greater than just ourselves at work in our life.

Faith is the evidence of things hoped for…… I believe, and I hope you will join me in believing, one day the pain will ease. The path will have more light and the JOY of salvation will be fully restored.

Jesus, Jesus, how I trust Him.  How I’ve proved Him o’re and o’re.

Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus!  Oh, for grace to trust Him more.

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No Turning Back

No one has EVER used the word “athletic” to describe me. God gave me some wonderful gifts, but none of them made me graceful or quick on my feet or able to catch a ball. I have accepted that fact. However, I do like to get out and spend some time on a trail walking. Some people call it hiking.  I’m not sure if what I do qualifies as hiking. I usually like to go alone.  No one makes fun of me that way, I don’t hold anyone up, and I can take 10 pictures of the same tree with 8 different settings if I want to.  I am slow, I am clumsy and at times I am tentative because I have a HORRID fear of falling.

Today was the perfect day to get out and commune with nature and our Creator. I needed some head-cleansing time, so I decided to take off to the mountains and do a little hike. I chose something easy because it had been a little while since I had been on a trail. I THOUGHT I chose this nice little 1.5 mile trail that was relatively flat and somewhat of a mix between paved and gravel. On my drive, I had visions of beautiful wildflowers and birds frolicking in the trees while I enjoyed my nice little “walk.”  Like something out of Snow White, I guess!

I quickly realized that my little trail, while not the difficulty of one of the trails to LeConte, was also not the little walking trail I had hoped for. In places it was steep, there were lots of tree roots to trip over, and while I did hear birds singing, there was not a single wildflower anywhere in sight!

I continued on, though, because it was quite beautiful and quiet and I was the only perFile May 02, 6 55 39 PMson on the trail.  Halfway through my adventure, I came across a rather large maple tree that had recently fallen across the trail. It was completely blocking the path.  You couldn’t go around it and you couldn’t go under it.  I had two choices.  Climb over the trunk and large branch or turn around and go back. I knew what was behind me. It was pretty. I had enjoyed it very much. I had no idea what was on the other side of that tree on the trail.  Wildflowers? Frolicking birds? A nice stream or waterfall? But it was a risk for this non-athletic, somewhat clumsy, tentative person to climb over that tree. (It was bigger than it looks in the picture.) If I fell or gashed my leg open or something like that, I was alone. What would I do? It was risk.

I climbed over the tree.

I’m glad there was no one there to see it.  I’m sure it wasn’t pretty.  Yes, I got a little scratched up and a little dirty, but I got to see the other side of the trail, and it was beautiful.

As I continued on the path, tears started streaming down my face at the realization God had just given me.  You see, in the last 6 weeks or so there has been more than one large tree that has fallen across the path of my life and blocked the road. I have been trying to figure out how on earth I am going to get past the grief and heartache and live with the fear of the unknown. My cries to God as of late have been of questions and whys. God, I knew that path.  I’ve been on it before. I knew the way. And we were doing good things together.  Why does it have to change?  In the gentle breeze and the beautiful waterfall that was in front of me, God said, give me your hand, give me your heart, trust me, and let’s find out what’s on the other side of that tree.


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The Circle of Life 

The scene is familiar.  Anxious members of the animal kingdom have gathered at the appointed spot. Each species seems to have its own special area in which to gather. The sky is a beautiful crimson and gold. Everyone is looking up in anticipation toward the pinnacle of a mountain. As the music swells and the animals sway back and forth in time, the newly born lion cub is raised high and presented to the adoring crowd.  The prince of the animal kingdom has been born and we all dance and celebrate and sing about “The Circle of Life.”  If you have ever seen the opening to The Lion King, it didn’t take you long to figure out what I was describing. 

But what is this circle of life? And how does it play out in our lives?

The writer of Ecclesiastes tells us “There is a time for everything and a season for every purpose under heaven.” As of late, my season has been one of loss and mourning.  The circle of life continued its journey through my family as we buried my mother a few weeks ago. We watched over a few short months as her body, with its brittle bones began to break and become ill. When you compounded the physical illness with the deep grief of losing her husband of 68 years, it just became too much to bear for her. 

Since her death and subsequent funeral, I have been thrust back into the throes of a busy tax season.  I have felt profound loneliness as my children left my home and returned to their lives.  I have already experienced a first holiday (Easter) without either of my parents, and I have begun to ask questions like, “what now, God?”  The circle of life naturally follows the arc of our grown children flying from the nest and trying out those new wings.  Yes, the circle even includes the eventuality that we will bury those we love, that friendships and relationships will ebb and flow and possibly end. We must accept the reality that there truly are “seasons” in our lives. Sometimes those seasons aren’t pleasant.  We begin to fully understand what the Apostle Paul meant when he talked about the Spirit praying for us when we simply don’t have the words to pray. Sometimes the hurt, the pain, the grief is just too much. 

It would be my nature to “put on a happy face.”  I have always thought that was what was expected of me.  I am not going to do that this time.  I will not wallow in self-pity or become reclusive, but I also will not rush through this season, this arc of the circle.  For I believe there is something here to learn. I believe there is something here to embrace.  My faith is just deep enough to believe that in this darkness and in this loneliness, God has a great word for me.  And I want to hear what He has to say. 

I also believe the circle will bring arcs of great joy to me again. New friendships, new passions, new loves, and just as there is a time to mourn, there will once again be a time to dance!


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