Richest Love


RichestLove

Beautiful Sunday blessings to you, Friends!

What grace that we are loved
beyond imagining

by the One who IS love,
whose love never changes, never fails,

never ends,

whose love is wholly undeserved,
and beyond all limits of time and space.

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Filed under Photos and Quotes

Called by Name


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The stories that penetrate life’s routines are the stories that connect humans to each other.Matt Knisely

When I first learned of Matt Knisely’s new book Framing Faith, I was intrigued. Matt’s an award-winning photojournalist of twenty Emmys and the Edward R. Murrow Awards, whose work I admire and whose words inspire, challenging me to reach higher, to work on lighting and framing, to integrate photography into every aspect of my life.

But here’s my confession. I was intimidated. Matt had publicly offered the opportunity to participate in his book launch. I was interested, but hesitated. I’m not a professional photographer or writer. I don’t have fifty- or even ten-thousand followers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, or my blog combined. And I have exactly three days of formal photography training.

A few days later I unexpectedly received a message from Matt via Twitter requesting my address so he could send me an advance copy of his book.

Wow. I smiled. Big. And felt ridiculously pleased.

Someone acclaimed and influential knows my name.

Me. A middle-aged, Midwestern, mini-van wheeling, wife and mom of five, a small-time blogger, and wanna-be writer and photographer, who sometimes wonders where this all might one day lead.

Matt’s book arrived the next week. I poured a fresh cup of tea, opened the envelope, and savored the back cover copy. As I flipped through the pages skimming the chapter titles, one in particular caught my eye, He Knows us by Name. I backed up a few paragraphs, and read these words: “In that moment I began to realize a simple truth about humans: a story is the shortest distance between two people, and some of the most beautiful parts of a story are best captured in isolation – in two-dimensional perspective.” I knew why I held this book in my hands and it was all wrapped up in the following vignette.

Back in 2000 during the run-up to the presidential campaign, Matt had been granted a one-on-one interview with republican candidate George W. Bush, who, toward the end of the interview had said words Matt’s heard at least a thousand times, “Nice to meet you, Nice-Lee.” Two and a half years later, at a press conference detailing the United States’ troop deployment into Afghanistan, then President George W. Bush, exiting “…down the outside perimeter of the crowd of reporters…paused, pointed at [Matt] and said, ‘Nice to meet you, Nice-Lee’….”

Wow.

Seen. Recognized. Called by name. Two and a half years later.

“I was stunned,” Matt recalls.

Me too in my own smaller way. Stunned that someone of Matt’s caliber would take the time to personally call me by name.

“Oh, sweet girl,” I tenderly heard in my soul, “I too call you by name. Every moment of every day. Whispering it with the wind. Shouting it in the thunder. Thrumming it through rain. Singing it in birdsong. Humming it in the gentle whir of wings and in the endless rhythm of the waves.”

Oh…

Oh, Lord, You do. And how easily I forget, longing to be seen when I already am, to be known, when You already do, to be called by name, when you promised so long ago You always will.

“Yes,” I heard His still, small Voice, “I have called you by name; you are mine.” Isaiah 43:1

His. Seen. Known. Loved. And called by name.

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Today, I have two copies of Matt Knisely’s book, Framing Faith, to give away, one for you and one for a friend.

Just comment below with your name and a friend’s, or tag your friend in a Facebook comment below this post on my page, and I’ll pull ALL FOUR WINNERS from my last three posts on Monday, July 28th, 2014, and announce the winners.

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You
are His.

Seen.
Known.
Loved.

And
called by name.

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Filed under Devotionals

A Rare and Precious Gift


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Nothing is more personal or intimate than listening.” Matt Knisely, Framing Faith

A couple of years ago, my spunky, speaks-her-mind, mother-in-law sat at one end of our kitchen island talking football when our middle daughter and her friend walked in. Anna hugged her grandmother and introduced her friend, Anthony, a high school football wide receiver.

They all chatted for a few minutes then Anthony turned to greet our youngest daughter, and my spunky mother-in-law blurted, “Anthony, you’re not listening to me!

Oh! Sorry!” he stammered, blushed, and immediately turned back.

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Laughter erupted from all corners of the kitchen. Anthony had officially been introduced to my vibrant, redheaded, mother-in-law, who, though she’d spoken in jest to Anthony, had also voiced the often unspoken words of our own hearts.

Our longing to be heard.

To be loved. Right where we are. Right in the messy midst. Without masks. Nothing retouched or colored or smoothed or erased or tweaked.

Naked and unashamed.

Like Adam and Eve in the garden before the Fall with nothing between them but love. No fear or guilt. No anger or frustration. Nothing lurking in the shadows. No unspoken longing. No skeletons in the closet.

Two souls, pure and holy and sinless. In full communion with each other and with God.

As we were created to be. One. To the very marrow of our bones.

“…the LORD God formed the rib that he had taken from the man into a woman….” Genesis 2:22

Bone of Adam’s bone all the way to the marrow.

But one bite forever altered that. Now it’s risky to reveal our imperfections, to let the wrinkles show, to divulge our unkempt edges. For love is messy. Sin has muddied the waters, shrouded the truth, and shadowed our vision of God.

It’s swung wide the door of loneliness and isolation.

Today we long to be heard. Beyond the distractions. Beyond the noise of a thousand thoughts careening in our brains. Beyond the crush of endless to-do lists and frenetic schedules.

Matt Knisely says it so well in his book, Framing Faith: “We’ve forgotten that listening is our conscious contextual navigation system. Rather we’ve become unconsciously aware. We check out. Disconnect. Get preoccupied…. Distracted by the subtle…. Distracted by our commitments…. Distracted by fear…. Distractions rob us of hearing the voices around us, and the Voice within us.

Listening is a rare and precious gift. A gift that shares burdens and carries mats. A gift that locks arms and links heart across time and space, abolishing boundaries and raining grace.

We long to be heard. To be known. To be loved. Soul deep. We long for the rhythm and cadence and timbre of our words, our lives, our stories, to be heard. To matter.

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This week, Matt Knisely, author and award-winning photojournalist, is giving away a copy of his new book, Framing Faith, to one of YOU.

To win Matt’s incredible book, just share in the comments an observation, an image, or a story you discovered by pausing to listen.

A moment when the light streamed in and eternity shone through. A moment where the clamor stilled and the still, small Voice spoke.

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Filed under Devotionals

Every Story Matters


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I am a hoarder of moments.”

Matt Knisely’s words caught me in the very first paragraph of his new book, Framing Faith, for I’ve been living in moments, those overlooked glimpses of eternity tucked into every breath, every heartbeat of creation, for thirteen years.

It’s why I pick up my camera. To seek beauty beyond first glance.

Why I pause, eyes closed, to feel the dew beneath my feet, morning’s gentle breeze, sun’s sweet kiss caress my cheek.

It’s why I listen, to hear God’s still, small voice whispering through all creation.

Why I tap at the keys, wrestling the mist into words I can read. And remember.

For thirteen years, I’ve been living in moments, because life can change in a heartbeat.

I’ve watched it happen. When my brother slipped across the veil at 32. When my son got sick and never got well. When all three of my daughters were diagnosed with the very same disease. When my dear friend’s husband was ushered home to Jesus while he talked with her on the phone.

These moments, this mist that evaporates with the rising sun, are too exquisite to miss, too precious to squander in the squeeze of schedules. Too holy to waste waiting for tomorrow or next week or next year, or until the kids grow up, or there’s more time, more money, more bandwidth, less stress.

Matt says it well, “The gift of love is everywhere, but when we are viewing life through the wrong lens, we don’t pay attention to its awesome presence.

So I’ve learned to breathe by learning to see. Learning to listen and drink in the beauty tucked into every precious moment. By learning to tell my story.

The real story. Which felt right, until a few readers questioned why I would tell this story of so much medical. Why I would disclose our personal lives to the public. I only know it’s how I breathe, how I learn to unravel the chaos and see God.

Then I read, “For me to withhold my story would be to rip out a thread from the tapestry of humanity.

Matt spoke the words I couldn’t find.

My story matters. Whether one person or ten thousand read the words I write, whether or not my photography ever launches beyond a hobby, my story matters.

Every thread woven into the tapestry of humanity matters. Whether it’s an eye-catching streak or support thread, a glittering highlight or deep shadow, every thread matters.

For without each individual thread the tapestry is flawed, the weave incomplete.

So today, I’m giving away a copy of Matt’s book, Framing Faith, with an invitation for you to share your story, your own unique and creative thread, in any way you choose — a glimpse, a moment, precious and essential.

For a chance to win Matt’s book, Framing Faith, From Camera to Pen, share a moment of your story in the comments below. It can be an image, the link to a blog, Facebook post, or YouTube video, or simply the words of your heart.

Next week, I’ll be giving away another copy of Framing Faith, and one more the week after that, as I share a few more of my favorite quotes, a little more of my story, and always another image.

How will you share your story?

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Filed under Devotionals

Finding Home


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I’ve never had to go far to experience God. Just a few steps outside my own back door. Because I feel Him in spring lilacs drenched in rain, in verdant green and winter white, in thunder and in rain.

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I feel Him as I break up winter-hardened earth, pull weeds, and harvest peas. As I breathe deep the symphony of blackbird and blue jay, cardinal and finch, rustling leaves and honeybee.

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This oasis, just feet beyond my own back door, refreshes like rain after drought, softening fissures, washing away dried up clay, cleansing scars, purple and deep, of diagnoses and disease.

A respite. A chance to breathe the rhythmic melody. God in. Me out. God in. Me out.

But what if I can’t climb her walls? Or guard her arms? Or help him sleep? What if she beats me around every bend to the edge of the cliff…and leaps?

Even if,” I hear Him whisper, “Even then.”

And I have to believe. In the marrow of my bones so I can breathe.

For I’ve lost my way in this crazy decade. Started to grasp and cling and ache with fear.

But I didn’t start here. I trusted once. Strong and deep. Didn’t doubt when my brother died and I didn’t heal. When my son got sick and never got well. Through long nights and new meds and constant tests. I didn’t doubt when my second was diagnosed or my oldest longed to end his life.

I stood. Still. And believed.

Then my third and fourth were diagnosed, and my daughter stood above holy ground and threatened to leap, and melanoma slipped uninvited into the lymph nodes of my father’s neck, and I wavered and started to sink.

Hands clenched. Heart tight. Unable to trust. Or maybe unwilling. Eyes securely on me.

He whispered, but I couldn’t hear or wouldn’t, till my say-it-like-it-is, food-loving, sports-loving, fruit-eating, red-haired mother-in-law suddenly and unexpectedly slipped into eternity.

While my girls were at camp.

When I reached them hours later, one cried. And one ran. And I prayed. “They’ll be OK,” my oldest said sitting next to me on my daughter’s bed.

And the Spirit whispered. Words I’d memorized years before.

For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but one of power, of love, and of self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I’d been struggling these past few months to trust Him with my kids, so afraid they’ll slip away before they’re His. Secure.

Fear had wrapped itself around my heart. But we are His.

Even if things don’t turn out as I hope.

Even if my precious, incredible, hurting kids choose their own way out.

Even if. Even then.

I need to know it in the marrow of my bones so I can breathe.

“Even if. Even then,” He whispered again as darkness kissed the dawn and moonless night gave way to blushing day.

Just Him and me. In this oasis of the deep. Not steps beyond my own back door.

But with every breath, right at home in me.

It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Galatians 2:20

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Joining the blog tour for Emily Wierenga’s beautiful new memoir, “Atlas Girl: Finding Home in the Last Place I Thought to Look”.

Emily’s story is poignant and honest, lyrical and powerfully written. A journey of hope and pain, wonder and loss, adventure and amazing grace. A tender heart sometimes faltering, but ever seeking, always reaching for the very heart of God.

A five star read!

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Filed under Devotionals

Choosing to See


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Today I am choosing to see, to look beyond the ordinary for the extraordinary — the breath of God in every moment, His love infusing every breath, His still, small voice echoing in every heartbeat.

Will you join me?

Let’s encourage one another to see, to really see, sharing in the comments where we each see the extraordinary just beyond the shadows of the ordinary.

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Filed under Photos and Quotes

Don’t Lift the Lid


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Thursday is garbage day. Early in the morning we wheel clean receptacles and recycle bins just outside the garage door. Neat and tidy. Nothing unsightly.

Unless you lift the lid.

So much like me.

Neat and tidy. Matching clothes. Matching socks. Dusted. Vacuumed. Laundry done. Counters clean.

But don’t lift the lid.

Or you’ll see my ragged need for validation. My rotting desire to be enough. Clean enough. Strong enough. Thin enough. Smart enough. Wise enough.

Growing up, I was short and skinny and shy. My hands and feet sweated. I matured late, took a lot of meds and drink a can of pear nectar in class every morning, embarrassing my friends so much they finally wrote me a letter listing, “30 Reasons We No Longer Want to be Your Friend.”

Not enough.

Even though I was a cheerleader. Even though I got good grades. Because they said I didn’t earn it, didn’t deserve them, that it was all just because I was a teacher’s kid.

Then along came Confirmation Class. Eighteen months of independent study. I drank in every word. Wrote and studied and met with Pastor Gerber, and decided to go on to school for a theology degree.

Instead I graduated high school, switched colleges, married and divorced before I was 23, and worked to pay off a mountain of debt.

Four years later, I’d remarried and had a son. We lived in a little Cape Cod on a quiet street in a small town. On the outside life looked good.

Until you lifted the lid.

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And discovered an anger that scared me. I could be out of control in minutes, and began to understand how someone can cross the line and abuse a child they love. I was afraid of hurting my son and equally afraid of confiding in my husband.

But God began to speak.

In McDonalds. On an ordinary day.

I’d walked in, ordered lunch, took my son by the hand and sat at a booth in the back. Three minutes later, my son had flung a French fry, torn up two napkins and scattered the pieces, climbed across the table, grabbed my iced tea and plunged his hand in deep, reaching for the lemon slice, tea erupting across the table, the floor, me.

I shoved my half-eaten burger in my purse, mopped up the booth and the floor with a dozen white napkins, hoisted my squirming son onto my hip, turned to leave and stopped mid-stride.

For there in the next booth sat a mom with four small children, sitting, talking, eating, smiling. And before I realized what I was doing, I’d crouched beside her and poured out my heart.

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Her words sank deep. I knew about Jesus. But I didn’t know Jesus. My garbage cans were clean and tidy on the outside, but messy, rotten, and stinking on the inside.

I was not enough. But I was never meant to be.

Because He is.

Knowing Jesus isn’t about measuring up, cleaning up, being enough, but about drinking deep, leaning hard, letting go.

For only when He lives and breathes inside of me am I clean.

Redeemed.

Inside and out.

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*I’m deeply grateful to Michelle DeRusha for the opportunity to share my own spiritual misfit story. Her memoir, Spiritual Misfit, is raw and deep, authentic, and laugh-out-loud funny. I was hooked by page two and devoured it straight through page 219, sad to see it end. It will engage you, encourage you, amuse you, and leave you wanting more. More of the One who calls her name, your name, my name, the One who opens wide His arms to gather each and every one of His beloved misfits in. This post first appeared at Michelle’s place on May 16, 2014.

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Filed under Devotionals

Poem for Today


I stand at the edge of day
gathering vulnerabilities
in the waning light,

smoothing folds,
tucking edges in tight,
like a crisp cotton sheet

over a well-worn mattress,
frayed at the edges,
lumpy and stained.

But lie down, stretch out,
and the years rise like steam
tugging against the seams

of this origami life.

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Filed under Poetry

In Search of Him


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Words are where I begin to understand, gain perspective, to process this life we’re living, where I seek the Deep and discover God in the messy midst.

Words are where I feel my heart beat, where I seek hope unfolding like dew-wet wings waiting to fly.

Because we have five precious kids. Four with significant, long-term illnesses.

Four.

Amazing kids navigating the teenage years with diseases few have ever heard of and even fewer understand. These kids live with nausea and migraines and nerve pain, dizziness, light-headedness and fainting. Some struggle to eat, constantly battling weight loss. Some struggle with tremor. One has chronic hives.

We see a team of doctors and administer a pharmacy of medications.

And it’s hard. On them. On my husband. On me.

So I write. To find balance and perspective. To peal back the dark in search of Him.

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Because nothing is simple or straight-forward or easy with chronically ill kids. It’s a puzzle. I’m constantly seeking one more piece, one more pattern, one more cause and effect, watching, waiting, evaluating, processing. Constantly processing.

And I wonder, every time I make a parenting decision is this necessary right now? Does my teen have the emotional bandwidth to process this today? How much are his or her symptoms playing into the words, the actions, the attitude? How important is it really to make this point, hold firm on this issue, or expect this task to be completed on time or even at all, right now right where we are?

So I write. Seeking wisdom. And perspective.

I write to wade through the chaos in search of Truth. Truth that never changes. Regardless of the storm.

Because I want so much for my kids.

I want them to be well, but even more I want them to know God. Not to know about Him, but to know Him. Deeply. Personally. Intimately.

Right here. Right where we are. Right where it’s hardest.

Even if never gets better. Even if healing waits just beyond the veil.

Even then. Especially then. I want them to reach out across the veil and grasp His hand. Know His touch.

Trust Him.

So I write, to find meaning in these young adult lives flipped upside down, inside out, spun a hundred and eighty unexpected degrees.

I write to collect the hope spilling from their eyes, cradling it close to my heart.

I write to find the way, step-by-step through a future shrouded in fog.

I write to go on, rise up, pull the covers off each brand new day and seek the Light. Because it’s there.

Always.

Just beyond the dark. Iridescent wings glistening in the pastel dawn. Awaiting the sun’s gentle rays to rise and fly.

I write to seek Love. In every thought. Every word. Every breath. Made flesh.

For me. For us. Every one of the seven billion souls alive on this planet today.

The Word. His Word. Across the ages. Sewn into every moment. Every heart beat. Every breath.

I write always in search of Him.

*Deeply blessed by the friendship and online communities of Kelli Woodford and Nacole Simmons, and their recent blog series which inspired this post. You can visit them here: Six in the Hickory Sticks and Chronicles of Grace.

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Filed under Devotionals

The Currency of Zero


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“Did anything surprise you?” my husband asked.

“Not really,” I answered a little too quickly. “I know myself pretty well. I could have told you where I’d end up without answering all those questions.”

Pause. My husband wisely waits me out sometimes.

“Well, I guess one thing surprised me. For the past 21 years, I’ve been immersed in the area of my absolute weakness. Do you know I scored a zero – A ZERO! – in the Motivator category?”

“It’s what I do every day. Every single day. Motivate. Encourage. Find hope. Seek good.

“A zero. Not one single point. And this, this is where God chose to place me for the past 21 years? No wonder I’m exhausted!

For the past two decades, God has been chiseling away at my stubborn independence, sanding off my “I don’t really like other people” edges, teaching me to make eye contact when I’d rather just walk on by, encouraging me to step outside myself where I can be very content, and placing me in a household of ever increasing population.

And I’m not a people person. At all. I struggle with small talk. It actually makes me sweat. I can carry on a four-hour conversation about something that touches me deeply, but put me in a room where I need to converse casually and there is suddenly not a thought in my head. Not one. It’s embarrassing, my inability to chitchat, something I’ve struggled with all my life.

Enter five kids. And homeschooling. Add one mom who adores the quiet, the still, time alone to read, write and think in full sentences, and you get a glimpse of my life for the past two decades.

Deep and rich and good. Full and busy and peopled, spilling over with jackets and shoes and phones, laughter and tears and a crescendo of words, sometimes late, always worth it.

Yet for one who relishes time and space, solitude and quiet, who longs to retreat inside her own head, who all too often still has to remind herself to make eye contact with passers-by, to engage with the world at her doorstep, I’ve been stretched and chiseled and pruned by the Hand of God every single day of these past twenty-one years.

And isn’t that just like God?

To gather up the shards of our selfishness and pride and inconvenience? To choose, even when it stings, to winnow and sift?

To wrap His hands around our brokenness, our willfulness, our stubbornness and apply just the right amount of pressure to soften and mold?

To allow us the proper time to cure before sanding and glazing and firing?

To redeem the days, the shards, the years? Weaving the threads of His love into our hearts that we may one day be vessels fit for the King?

Brimful, spilling over, pouring out? To no credit of our own? But all to the glory of God?

Yup. That’s His Kingdom. Upside down and inside out.

Where the currency of zero is always precious tender.

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Filed under Devotionals

From A Spring-Fed Well


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Agape,
to love without borders,

unconditionally,
expecting nothing in return.

To love without prompt
from a spring-fed well,

regardless, in spite of,
right through the messy midst of,

saying with the heart,
“There is nothing you can do

to make me love you more,
and nothing you can do

to make me love you less.”
Agape,

looking past imperfections
to hope,

who we were created to be,
who we can become in Christ.

To love
all-in, full-out,

without exception or condition
or end,

boundless, infinite,
beyond all human comprehension.

Possible only
with God, through God,

in God,
because He first loved us.

We love only
because He is

Love.

Whatever love we have,
whatever love we give –

however imperfect or skewed,
or misrepresented,

however conditional or grudging,
is His love

flowing through these broken vessels
damaged in the Fall,

beautifully
redeemed by grace,

forgiven, restored,
purposed

to fulfill His unfathomable plan
for all Creation.

Simply…
To love like Jesus.

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Filed under Poetry

A Motto and an Opportunity


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Click here for your free printable of the photo above.

Tonight I’m going to share something a little different — a t-shirt. Not just any t-shirt, but a battle cry, chosen by my Dad as his goal, his motto, his encouragement through twelve treatment cycles — fourteen days on, fourteen days off for a total of 168 days of treatment — for systemic melanoma in 2014.

Encouraged to write a goal, a reason, to persevere through a full year of Leukine therapy, my Dad spent a few weeks praying, and we prayed with him. Then one day it suddenly became clear to him in three phrases, one on the way down the stairs, one of the way back up, and one rounding the corner into the kitchen.

As we celebrated my Dad’s birthday a few days later, he placed a slip of paper in front of me, face-down. On it, his goal, weaving together family, friends and faith.

Breathe Deeply, Go Forward, Keep the Faith!

Breathe Deeply (and experience the immensity of God) from my blog, Go Forward, my brother’s motto, and Keep the Faith, a favorite saying of my Dad’s friend, Jim.

I instantly fell in love with my Dad’s goal and knew others might too. Good words from a good man, standing strong.

So here’s where I offer something different, these words on a printable, downloadable image, a gift from my heart to yours, and the opportunity to stand with my Dad across this great, big, wide world, and wear these words on a t-shirt.

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T-shirts can be ordered here from Ink to the People, a secure and reputable site, for $17.

For your free gift, a printable version of the photo at the top of this page, click here.

Blessings, Friends, from my heart to yours.

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Filed under Devotionals

Savor the Hard Stuff


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I woke this morning to a message from a friend, “Savor the hard stuff.

Not words she’d wanted to send. But words God had laid on her heart, clearly, unmistakably. Three times in thirty minutes. And on faith, she sent them to me.

“I LOVE you!” I immediately typed back, because she’d sent exactly the words I’d needed to hear.

Twice in two weeks, the phone had rung in the middle of the night, and I’d risen, pulled on jeans and fleecy socks, zipped my jacket against winter’s chill, and stepped out into the night.

As I slowly backed out of the garage on the first trip, snowflakes glittered in the headlights and crunched beneath the tires, and I thanked God aloud for heated seats.

The roads were empty for miles. Still and beautiful in the fresh falling snow. A world at rest. For I was alone on these usually busy roads, just me and a lone county salter, idle on the overpass, orange lights flashing.

Into the still, Matt Redman’s voice swelled in worship,

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O my soul,
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before,
O my soul,
I’ll worship Your holy name.

You’re rich in love, and You’re slow to anger.
Your name is great, and Your heart is kind.
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing,
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find…”

And I sang along, quietly, for this felt, somehow, like holy ground.

But not trip two. That night, those miles, I felt no peace.

Open your hands, I heard God speak to my heart.

“No, Lord,” I whispered, defenses rising, battle lines drawn.

Open your hands, I heard again, tenderly.

Nineteen years ago, I’d sat in pool of autumn sunlight, rocking this unborn son, and released him back to God. Eyes closed, sun warm, hands open, heart aching, I released my son to his Heavenly Father, thanking Him for every day my son stayed safely tucked inside me, for every beat of his tiny heart, for every lengthening contraction, every moment his stress lessened, for this was my son, and whether or not I ever held him in my arms, he would always be my son. Samuel Christopher. Asked of God. Bearing His image. Gift and priceless treasure.

What if I’m doing this for him?

Really??? How can this be for him? Any of this? I don’t even know how to pray anymore. What to ask. How to help. What to say.

Long-term illness is hard. There are no easy answers. No quick fixes. My son, who’d called in the middle of the night, wants nothing more than to be a “normal college student.”

But he’s been sick for five years. Came down with what we thought was the stomach flu on his brother’s birthday and never got well. And this inability to “leave that part of himself behind” when he moved to college is one more reminder of the constancy of chronic illness.

It goes with him wherever he goes. He can’t just leave it behind.

Open your hands.

Tears spilled as I tried to breathe, evenly, slowly, to still my racing heart as I pulled onto campus, winding along the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan on this velvety cold night lit by an opalescent moon.

I love this campus, Lord. They’re so understanding. And kind. But this? This is hard. I long to wrap my arms around my son and hold him close. Protect him. Do something, anything, to make this better.

Heal him, Lord! Make him well! Oh, Father, please, I know you can!

But what if I’m doing this for him?

I shook my head and wiped my tears, breathing deep, forcing calm.

“I’m here,” I texted, waiting in the quiet. Minutes later my son walked through the door in his leather jacket, backpack slung over his shoulder, hamper of clothes in one arm, box of meds in the other, and slumped into the front seat.

Hey, Honey,” I said, laying my hand his shoulder.

We pulled away in silence, enveloped by the night, as the first notes of Tenth Avenue North’s I’m Worn rose from the radio.

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

This,” he whispered in frustration, gesturing toward the radio, tears spilling from his eyes. And mine.

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

(Chorus)
My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn
So, heaven come and flood my eyes

(Chorus)
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn
Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

Open your hands, I heard again. Open your hands. And lay your Isaac down.

“Oh…” I swallowed, a sob rising in my throat. “And savor the hard stuff?”

Yes. Savor the hard stuff. Enter the deep. For that is where treasure lies. Where dross is drained away and love roots deep, where self withers and trust grows, and we learn to abide.

Chiseled, sanded, pruned. Grafted to the Vine. Polished and refined.

The hard stuff. Where we learn to open our hands, open our hearts, and lay our Isaacs down.

I don’t know what the future holds. I only know that today we traveled back to campus to begin the medical withdrawal process for our son for this semester of college. Today the tears fell, in every meeting, as we spoke to our son’s friends, as we began to pack up his room, as we drove along the bluff.

And today the words came hard as I opened my hands. Opened my heart.

And laid my Isaac down.

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A Gift for You


IMG_1922

A few weeks ago, Amy Breitmannand Tammy Hendricksmeyer of Outside the City Gate approached me and asked if I’d be interested providing photography for their first e-book, Pieces of Faith, A Mosaic of Sojourners.

Yes! Of course! Absolutely!” was my immediate reply from the rolling hills of Elkton, Oregon, where I was attending a weeklong photography workshop.

And what an honor it’s been! Tammy and Amy are, bar none, the most encouraging women I have ever worked with. They’ve stretched me out of my comfort zone and encouraged me every step of the way.

Today, Outside the City Gate is releasing this “labor of love, a collaboration of voices…not us standing in our Sunday-best, but writers and artists gathering the truthful pieces of ourselves, our stories, and giving them away. We offer them with the sincere hope that you might recognize some of your own story in the collection.”

A collection including work from:

Diane Bailey
Amy Breitmann
Tammy Hendricksmeyer
David Rupert
Duane Scott
Nacole Simmons
Beth Stiff
Kelli Woodford

“So we reach out today, to give ourselves ~ the raw and truthful words set against a backdrop of photos.”

May these words and images bless, encourage and refresh you, drawing you in, connecting each of us across the miles, each an integral part of the whole, each an irreplaceable piece of the mosaic, life and breath of the Body of Christ on this earth together.

To learn more and download your free copy of this beautiful collaboration, click here:

An Offering: From Writers, Dreamers, and Artists.

Sunday blessings to you, Friends!

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Filed under Something Different

Whispers of Eternity


Masterpiece

To tender love
is to spill Christ,

however distorted,
shadowed, refracted

in these shards of clay,
whispers of eternity

oozing through fissure,
chink and gap,

staining Adam’s dust
in infinite array.

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Filed under Poetry

Intentionality


IMG_0841

It was a gray, February day in Oregon. Rain fell softly. Fog slid between the trees and the foothills, rounding, smoothing, like a watercolor painting. A day steeped in emotion. And a wide slice of courage.

Heart pounding, I’d rehearsed the question, wondering if I was overstepping professional or workshop etiquette, wondering if I could ask my husband to ask for me. And simultaneously feeling ridiculous.

Oh, my gosh! How hard can this be? He can always say, “No.”

We met in the lodge later that day at the end of a long dining room table. A fire crackled in the fieldstone fireplace, respite from the icy drizzle glazing the world outside, and the aroma of grilled pears and rack of lamb emanated from the kitchen.

Hesitantly, I opened my laptop, and Jeremy, a respected photographer and studio owner in Pennsylvania, looked through a dozen or so of my images – in silence — before asking, “Do you want the long answer or the short?”

“Either,” I replied, no longer sure I was ready for Jeremy’s answer, yet acutely aware that I’d asked for it.

And suddenly, I realized that what I was actually seeking was validation, affirmation of my work, my vision, my art.

Maybe of me.

I don’t remember Jeremy’s exact words, though I wish I did. They were thoughtful and constructive. He pointed out what I did well. Then asked a question: “Are you intentional about your images?”

“You mean do I choose what I shoot and how?”

“No, why do you choose your subjects?”

“I’m not really sure,” I answered, searching for words. “I guess I pick up my camera to gain perspective, see something different, the way light reflects or colors refract or raindrops gather sunlight.”

“The next step is to be intentional. Do you ever ask God what He wants you to see in an image?”

“No,” I said, surprised. “Not ever. Never once have ever I thought to ask God what He wants me to see in an image.”

But I’m asking now.

Asking as I follow the long, thin ribbons of a cross-country skier along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Asking as a playful breeze shakes the dark pines’ winter white coats into heaps on the forest floor. Asking as I gather shards of colored glass and watch shadows dance in candlelight.

Asking, because isn’t that the heart of life in Christ?

Bringing every thought captive?

Every facet? Every moment? Every heartbeat? Every breath into the fullness of Christ?

Intentionally? On purpose?

Because isn’t that where we find life spilled over, poured out, abundant, love without borders, grace upon grace upon grace, Amen?

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Filed under Devotionals

Uphold You


UpholdYou

Encouragement from the One who created you,
who knew you before the beginning of time,
and loves you beyond all human understanding,

the God who gave up His life for yours,
to redeem you and every hour the locusts have eaten,
who forgives you again and again and again, forever,

who pours out grace upon grace upon grace
every moment, every step, every breath,
waiting with arms wide open to welcome each beloved child home.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” ~ Isaiah 41:10

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Filed under Photos and Quotes

Celebration of Color


CelebrationOfColor

God is the artist of our souls,
breathing life into His own,

each a broken melody,
together, a harmonic whole
.

Sunday Blessings, Friends!

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Filed under Photos and Quotes

Love Poured Out


LovePouredOut

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February 27, 2014 · 10:17 am

Love Isn’t Poor


LoveIsntPoor

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February 26, 2014 · 8:15 am