Category Archives: Uncategorized

Real love


Week Ten of the CPE Journey: The Audacity of Completion

August 22, 2014 is a day that will not soon be forgotten by me. It was the last day of my training as required by the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE). The four hundred hours of clinical and academic work was among the most intense four hundred hours of work of I have had in quite some time. The intensity was met with me being honoured to present the last worship service of the unit. As I began to prepare the homily I found it difficult to put on paper words that would adequately present the intensity of completion that was accomplished not by me alone but also my peers as we all traveled the CPE journey.

Despite my inability to properly pen proper words for the homily on that last day of CPE I could not help but think of Paul when he was winding up his ministry as he sought to encourage Timothy. In his charge to Timothy in II Timothy chapter four Paul says in part that he fought a good fight and kept the faith. This is to say that Paul endured many things during his ministry. He had to lay aside some of his own views in order to be effective in preaching the Gospel. This led him to journey down difficult roads which included Paul being shipwrecked, snake-bitten, imprisoned and other difficulties. Interestingly none of these things deterred Paul from meeting the task at hand. Paul completed what was required of him so that he could confidently declare that he had fought a good fight.

My peers and I have also endured a number of things in order to accomplish the mission at hand. While we were not shipwrecked or snake-bitten the trouble we endured was not for the faint of heart. We had the temerity to set our sights on completing CPE and would not relent despite the troubles that came our way. There were obstacles to be met both within and without the program. Some of us disclosed some of the trouble and yet there were many obstacles that were not mentioned but either me or my peers. Yet there was an absolute necessity to complete the task at hand. And so we labored tirelessly as we journeyed through the challenge of Clinical Pastoral Education.

I certainly can speak with no authority as to the totality of the obstacles of my peers yet I can say that looking over my life some might have counted me out many years ago. You see I was told my entire childhood that I was no good that that I would amount to nothing. I was the one in school that had few friends and was often the brunt of many jokes and the skinny kid that was the natural target of not just being bullied but also being beat up on multiple occasions. Certainly people such as my first grade teacher saw much good in me yet very few took time out to aid in positively molding this stuttering, quiet kid that just did not fit in any crowd. Even so it would seem that a tenacious attitude was being built for many years in the young loner that I was.

One might not have thought that a young skinny kid would do well in the United States Marine Corps. Unexpectedly this strong-willed young man became a strong young Marine and there was certainly no stopping from this point on. No, it was not easy even in the military but then there was no promise of an easy life. There was no suggestion that being a Marine would put to rest all of the worlds ills. In fact the contrary was the case as I was being molded not just to a Marine but also a man of character; a man of destiny and a man of audacity. I did not and would quit in boot camp and could not and would not quit on whatever else life had to offer. No, quitting was not an option and neither was holding to the idea that the quiet young boy would amount to nothing but nothingness.

There is no intent here to discuss my biography. That would take much more than an essay of around a thousand words. The intent here is to show that audacity is a necessary tool used to bring the best from all of us. You see there were some that said that I was not chaplain material. That would not stop me from walking toward that pull of ministry that is deeply imbedded in me. Yes, there were some that encouraged me to move forward but as in my childhood the idea of not pursuing was the drumbeat of others. There was even one peer who told me at least twice that I did not belong in the CPE program. Nonetheless my tenacious audacity would not allow me to march away from that which I knew was part of the work I had been working toward for a number of years. No, I could not listen to the dissenters rather I had to heed the call which is so much part of my life.

In heeding the call I walked through certain aspects of academia. More importantly my CPE journey led me to many people; some in beds and others sitting in chairs. I have talked with staffers including doctors, nurses and housekeepers. I have been on the bedsides of the dying and the crying. Some of those with whom I have ministered have been hurt physically while others were in emotional turmoil. Some just needed someone to talk to and others just needed the feeling of belonging. I have had the opportunity to minister to many while some have ministered to me. It has been a journey and a journey well worth taking.

No journey comes without bumps in the road. This is perhaps a point that Paul was making to Timothy. Undoubtedly Paul endured obstacles which may have seemed insurmountable. It is certain that many sought to discourage as well as ridicule Paul as he journeyed the road of pointing men to the Saviour. The tenacity of Paul serves as an example of all that have a need to persevere despite certain opposition. Giving up was an option Paul could not enjoy and I am certain that it is an option that the children of God cannot entertain. Determination is sometimes confused for stubbornness yet without determined audacity nothing will ever be accomplished.

No worthwhile journey comes with ease. Nothing is accomplished without some blood, sweat and tears. Yes there are sweet victories along the road of success and there are also bitter failures. Yet the failures are not reason enough to end a journey rather the failures make successes all the more sweet. So, as I have said in times past do not quit and don’t give in. Let God complete the work He has begun in you as you use that deep-seated audacity of completion to do the unique work that is for you and you alone.

Yesterday’s Dung is Today’s Fertilizer

Through clenched teeth I said, “You’ll pay for that. I will get even. You’re going to be sorry you were ever born.

It wasn’t the first time, and wouldn’t be the last, that I made vows like these.

Of course, as with most fights, “kiss and make up” follows. That makes everything better, right?


Sometimes not.

The thought, I will get even, can linger long after things are supposedly patched up.

The question we never bother to ask is, “How?”

What could possibly be done to repay the “debt” accrued to the offender’s account?

But I want an apology. I want to see them grovel, and beg for forgiveness.

And if they did?

Would their apology make time roll back? Erase words spoken in a fit of anger? Undo abuse, rape, infidelity?

Okay, now that you’ve said you’re sorry it never happened.”

Don’t you wish life worked that way?

That which has been done cannot be undone. Why don’t we understand this? (Me most of all!)

Now what?

We’re left with a decision to make.

1) We can carry resentment and unforgiveness – which will lead to bitterness that will eat us alive physically, taint every aspect of our life, and defile every person we come into contact with.

(Meanwhile, the offender has forgotten the incident and is going on with their happy little life…and we? We remain enslaved to him or her for the rest of our life.)


2) We can do the hard work of extending forgiveness. Place the matter into the Lord’s hands and actually trust that He will make this right in His time and in His way.

(Free to live life in the present, not chained to the past.)

Oh, do I ever know that this is not an easy thing of which I speak. Most of my life I’ve had, not just one offender, but a whole busload of them to pack around on my back. Some of the things they’ve done are vile and cruel…punishable by law. Yet, they walk freely through life without giving their actions a second thought.

Everything in me screams in protest when I consider letting go of their offenses. No one else is going to make them pay, how can I possibly release them?

Want to know how that’s going for me?

Hmm. I’m imprisoned…

…and they’re enjoying life. Most of them haven’t given me a thought in years…decades even.

{In other words, not very well!}

I saw this saying the other day, and it deeply resonated with me:

Don’t let the past

and useless details

choke your existence.

Note that it does not say, insignificant. The atrocities were certainly not insignificant. They were evil and caused deep wounds.

However, they have also served to shape us into the people we are today. They’ve done their work. We don’t need them anymore. They are useless.

As I travel “Blogtopia,” I find people in various states of repair. Some are stuck in the past, but many have grown strong as a result of their history. Their amazing ministries sprang up from the garbage heap of yesterday. All the “crap” they lived through serves as fertilizer for their verdant growth: far-reaching tendrils, and bountiful fruit.

If we are “new creatures in Christ,” the day we were born again we became dead to what took place before – if we want to be. We can rise up from the grave of baptism with a brand new life. Our genesis need not be tinged with the fiery red of hatred, the deep purple of resentment, or the black of bitterness and unforgiveness.

We, of all people, can live in light and love.

For once we became children of God, every evil in our past fell away – a useless detail. History need not have the power to control us ever again – if we want it that way.

Rebirth does not erase the abuses, the offenses, the sins committed against us…

…but God…


…but God comes with healing in His wings. What they meant for evil, God means for good. The Bible is replete with examples of this…

…and He does not change.

Why let the past, which we cannot alter, determine how we will live our “todays?”

Let go of the useless details and reach out to a world that desperately needs to know that Jesus can take yesterday’s dung and turn it into today’s fertilizer!

(Thank you for reading my ramble. These are brand-new thoughts rattling around in my head. I sense the fresh wind of freedom in them…just haven’t quite grasped the truth of this for myself.)


Praise Jesus!

Now That’ll Wreck Your Day

Driving home from Santa Rosa one night, my nerves were as tense as a drum head. It was about two in the morning, and the elk traveled that highway at night.

To hit an one of these majestic creatures while driving a compact car,

well, that’ll wreck your day for sure.

I was on high alert, my eyes peered into the darkness outside the headlight beams. I hoped to spot the large animals in time to avoid a collision.

Suddenly, in my mind, I “saw” my car hit one. My body was instantly upright, and I popped through the roof of my car like a piece of toast ejected from a toaster. Quick as a wink, I shot through space and was caught in Jesus’ arms. I’d have passed Him by if He hadn’t caught me. Jesus was chuckling at the surprised look on my face.

Just that fast, I was no longer afraid. Instead I began the “wheet, wheet” whistle of a person who called their dog. “Here, elk! Here, elk!” I called merrily.

When the Lord brings the light of truth to our darkest dread, fear flees!

A few weeks later I drove to the store. I saw a large black butterfly as it flitted around me – and then it swooped in front of me.

The instant I imagined it hit my grille, I “saw” it gently pushed through a gossamer-thin veil where it became the most beautiful iridescent blue I’d ever seen. The world around it was too stunning for words. “Pure color” is the only thing that comes remotely close. It was amazing.

In 1 Corinthians 2:9, 10 we read, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit.”

Why He chose to give me these “visions,” I don’t know, but I can tell you this:

Death has lost it’s ability to wreck my day!


{More on this topic in my next post. You can find it here “In Your Wildest Dreams.” Don’t miss it!}

Visit Lessons by Heart

My Mother-In-Law was Lost on the Mountain

“You can’t find her?” I asked.

“I looked all over the place. She’s not there. I was hoping you picked her up,” my father-in-law replied, a tinge of anger in his voice. “Did you show Wendel where I left her? Did he or Jim come and get her?”

“No. I gave you my word. They don’t know where she is,” I said.

“Maybe her cousin came and got her. Oh, I don’t know. What am I going to do? I can’t leave her here, and I won’t be able to come much longer,” he said with a sigh.

“We’ll come help you look on Saturday. She will be okay until then, I’m sure. I’ll have Wendel call you when he gets home.

That night I told our home group that my mother-in-law was lost on the mountain about an hour out of town.

“Oh no!” exclaimed one of the women. “Is there a search party? How long has she been missing? I hope she is all right.”

Giggling, I explained, “She will be fine. She’s in an urn. My father-in-law can’t remember where he buried her, that is all.

Okay, so sometimes I can be overly dramatic. This was too good an opportunity to pass up!

We arrived at the cabin just before lunchtime. My father-in-law was both upset that he couldn’t locate her urn; and angry because he was certain someone had come and collected her remains. We reassured him that she would be found, even if we had to search the entire range. Then we headed for the steep incline that was the foot of a foreboding mountain.

A little while later, we were standing before the rock that my father-in-law had originally shown me.

A couple of years earlier, he’d walked me up to this place. As we leaned against the rock, he took his walking stick and thrust it into the ground between us. “This is where you mother-in-law is,” he’d said. “I don’t want anyone else to know where I put her because I don’t want them to take her away. She loved it here, and this is where I want her to rest.”

We’re not irreverent people, disrespectful of the dead…we just have a little different understanding about “remains,” because we know that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. When the time comes for Jesus to come collect us, He will know right where to find us. Consequently, I was positive that neither my husband nor his brother were going to come “steal” her ashes.

“I promise not to tell a soul,” I had reassured him.

Now keeping his secret didn’t seem like such a good idea. Only we two knew where she’d been buried…and I hadn’t been back since the day he showed me the place. Besides, I’m a girl. I get lost walking around in my back yard!

We began to dig at the base of the rock. Sure enough, nothing was there. We glanced at the mountainside. It was speckled with  boulders and rocks of various sizes. This was going to take a bit of doing.

“Maybe it wasn’t this rock after all,” my father-in-law said.

“Well, that must be the case. I’m fairly certain she didn’t walk off,” I replied, trying to lighten the atmosphere a bit.

We dug around the base of every rock for a hundred yards or so. Nothing. He was getting tired, so I suggested that Wendel take him back to the cabin and the two of them get some lunch. I offered to continue looking.

As they turned to go, my father-in-law said, “Oh. I put her urn in a blue plastic bag before I buried it.”

“Okay, thanks. I’ll see you two in a little while.”

I turned once again to the mountain and sighed. So many boulders. Such a tall mountain. Where should I begin?

Of course. Why hadn’t I thought of this before? Where should one always begin?

Ask – then seek.

“Oh, Abba Father, You know the exact location on this mountainside where my mother-in-law’s remains are placed. I really need Your help. This is a big hill and there are hundreds of boulders. Would You please lead me to her?”

Looking around, I realized that we’d only looked to the right of the trail we came up – and not to the left.

Hmm. Why not check over this way?

I poked around a couple of large rocks, but to no avail. I walked a bit farther to the left. My heart skipped a beat. In a hollow under a medium-sized boulder I saw something blue. It looked like it might be a tarp, though. I tried not to get my hopes up as I cautiously stuck my hand into the tiny cave.

Woohoo! I felt the hard, smooth container through the plastic.

“Oh, Lord! This is awesome. You totally rock! – uh, no pun intended.

Thank You for taking me to the right place. This is great!”

My father-in-law had selected the downhill side of the boulder as her resting place. Neither of us had considered the amount of snow that fell there every year – or the effects runoff would have on the terrain. I glanced back at the rock, and the little cavern beneath it. One more winter, and the dirt around the boulder would have eroded, causing it to crush the urn beneath.

With my prize in my arms, I gleefully skipped my way back to the cabin and presented it to my father-in-law. I excitedly told them how I’d found her – but only after I asked for God’s help.

Looking into my father-in-law’s eyes, I said, “God loves us even more than we love our children. When one of them lost something, we would help them search until it was found. Our heavenly Father knew your wife’s urn was important to you, and was delighted to show us where she was. Isn’t He so good?”

(Oh, Lord, please let him hear what I’m saying.)

Jesus told us that we need to become like little children. After meditating on this for a bit, I realized that when my kids were little, they depended on us for everything – food, shelter, clothing, help when they hurt, care when they were ill, and all the rest. I began to understand that this is how our heavenly Father wants us to relate to Him as well.

God is no “Genie in a bottle” that I conjur up whenever I want something, but a loving Father who cares for me. He is pleased when I depend on Him to meet my needs, be they spiritual, physical, mental or emotional.

Time and again He has helped me locate important items that I’ve put away and forgotten where they were stored – insignificant things, not unlike helping a child locate a beloved stuffed animal. I matter that much to Him.

Valued – um hmm, that’s how I feel when He demonstrates His interest in the little details of my life.

John 17:3 reads, “This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

How do we get to know someone? We spend time with them. Through the course of life, we ask things of them. By the way they respond to those requests, we begin to understand how they think; what kinds of requests we can make of them, and which sort are a clear,”no.”

We also learn what pleases them, and what behaviors hurt or offend them. As the relationship grows, and we come to know and love them more, we naturally desire to bring them pleasure and not pain.

It took several decades for God to finally break through my defenses. By showing His tender care for me – even in the small matters – I’ve come to see that He truly is good all the time, completely trustworthy, and worthy of all my praise.

What an honor and great privilege it is to call Him “Father” and “Lord!”

By the way, we won’t be losing my mother-in-law again. She now has her own little “home” in a memorial park! My father-in-law has since joined her there, along with my brother-in-law.

Visit Lessons by Heart

Happily Ever After

I was embarrassed to send out wedding invitations for my fourth marriage to (Christian) family members. They must think I’m such a loser.

This time was going to be different, though.

I’d finally met Prince Charming.

I didn’t give a rip about church at that time of my life – I don’t think we ever even discussed religion during the year and four months we dated. We were too busy being in love and loving life to the max.

We had an amazing honeymoon on Maui. I’d never expected to go to Hawaii in my wildest dreams. Oh, the snorkeling, the sight-seeing, the luau; sitting on the lanai with the warm tropical breeze gently caressing bare skin.

What a perfect way to begin a perfect marriage. I thought to myself.

Have you ever wondered why fairy tales end right after the wedding, with the blissful couple riding off into the sunset?

{Hand raised o/, enthusiastic call} Pick me! Pick me!

Okay, I’ll tell you why.

Because after every wedding comes a marriage!

For me, like I said, this was my fourth. I’m not proud of that. It’s one of my “coats of shame” that the Lord has to frequently remove from me – and remind me that He has given me His robe of righteousness in exchange.

The first marriage had a duration of about 20 months. We’d only known one another for 2 1/2 months before we got hitched. There were a lot of issues. The biggest one was that I expected to be treated like royalty…and in the process became a royal pain in the … well, you know.

My second marriage was going to be different…oh, and was it ever. I was determined before God to fulfill my marriage vows – and did for ten years. This was one of the most difficult times of my life. In the end, God led me out of captivity into a safe place.

The third marriage was another short one, measured by months – not years.

Then I met Mr. Right. I knew “happily ever after” lay just beyond our marriage covenant.

Wow! Was I in for a rude awakening.

(Sorry, Dear Hubby – this will get better in a minute!).

What followed should have come as no surprise. After all, when we are given a test and fail, God is gracious and always administers a “re-test.” He provides do-overs until we finally pass because His kids are winners! No matter how many times we have to take our tests, on His report card, we will have straight As!

I’ll let you in on a little secret. It took me more than 25 years to figure this out:

Marriage is not primarily about happiness;

It is about holiness.

You see, our spouse is meant to bring out the worst in us so we can surrender it to God and grow in the process.

The selfishness

The pride

The manipulation

The need to control

The insecurity

These rear their ugly heads in no time at all.

They certainly had in my first marriage. It was his fault. I just needed better husband material, so I moved on.


The problems I thought I’d left behind in the first relationship followed me into the second…new ones appeared as well:



Lack of provision



All the issues that go with addiction

I’ll make a better choice next time, I decided.


There was a short period of emotional recovery. I figured I was “healed” and could now make a marriage work. It didn’t take long to figure out that I had all the problems of relationship #1 and #2…and a whole ‘nother set of issues:



Loss of my kids’ respect

He’s not the one, either…next…


As you’ve guessed, I brought all of these earlier problems into my “happily ever after” marriage. Of course, a new man comes with new challenges, so there were even more things to struggle with. In no time at all, we were about as unhappy as a couple could be. In fact, after about three years we separated.

But God…

Aren’t those the best words in all the world?

God had other plans for us. We went to marriage counseling at a church, which led to a marriage class of several weeks, and church attendance, all of which drew us into a genuine relationship with the Lord.

It’s taken time, but God is slowly changing our characters, removing defects one by one. I love Philippians 1:6. “God is faithful to complete the work He has begun in you.”

He just needed for me to stay put long enough for my sinful behaviors to surface, be acknowledged, repented of, and surrendered to His Spirit. He has been faithfully transforming me by renewing my mind.

It began when I was willing to cede the throne…and give it back to Him.


Today I understand that I can live…

Happily Ever After

when I

Happily give up

what-Ever God is After!


Oh, and if we don’t “get” it through marriage (which brings out the worst in us)…

…we get children to be living mirrors of what we are like to live with.

I don’t want to say that I’m slow, or that there was a lot for me to see in myself…

…but I was given seven children – “mini-me’s” to demonstrate my behavior so I could see myself in action.

They truly are a gift of God!


The Mother of Nine wrote two excellent articles on this topic. They fill in some of the “white spaces” in this post. You can read them here:

When Marriage Feels Like a Meat Grinder

The Teeter-Totter Syndrome

Visit Lessons by Heart

Battle With the Bear

“Oh my gosh, Mom, it’s a bear!” my thirteen-year-old son exclaimed.

I looked up from the hand-held game we’d been playing. Sure enough a “teen-age” bruin was not eight feet away from us, and closing in fast.

“GET OUT OF HERE,” I yelled – both at the bear and my son. The bear backed up a few paces, then began to walk toward us again. My son moved not one step. Only a dozen feet behind me, nicely corralled in their playpen, were my two youngest boys – one was almost two years old, the other would be one in a couple of months.

At the time, money was limited. I’d spent everything we had for the groceries now stored in bags and ice chests – ironically sitting under the warning sign to campers that all food should be kept in vehicles because bears were a problem. Did I point out the sign when my (ex)husband unloaded the food and left in our only vehicle to go fishing? Yes, I most certainly did. He assured me that everything would be fine. Right!

Several scenarios flashed through my mind. Every one ended up with our food strewn throughout our camp, mixed with bloody body parts of my children. How could one woman defend three children from a bear?

I didn’t know, but I was going to do all I could.

I chased our intruder back into the brush. I thought he was gone for good, when my oldest said, “Mom, I think you made him mad.”

We could hear his low “woofs” from somewhere just beyond the edge of our camp. Nerves stretched like Saran Wrap on a bowl, we peered into the thicket, but couldn’t see him.

Suddenly, he began to boldly walk into camp again. I clapped my hands and shouted; so did my son. Still he came on.

Not knowing what else to do, I thought if I appeared to be larger than he, that might do the trick. I jumped up onto the picnic table, stomping, clapping, and yelling for all I was worth.

The bear was undaunted, determined, and continued to move in. Exasperated and scared out of my mind, I picked up a couple of pans, clanged them together and yelled, “ALL RIGHT! NOW YOU’RE STARTING TO P*SS ME OFF!”

To my amazement, he growled, stood up on his hind legs, twisted his torso, and landed facing the other direction. Relief flooded my taut nerves as he lumbered back into the brush and out of sight.

We didn’t see him again that weekend. I have a feeling my ex-husband would rather have faced that bear than me when he returned to camp! I’m fairly certain that everyone on that mountainside heard what I had to say about the matter, too.

In this case, my choices were fight or flight. Without a vehicle, and with two toddlers to carry, flight was not an option. I was prepared to fight until death, if necessary, to protect them from this enemy.

The Bible tells us that we have an enemy that is of far greater danger than my bear. He merely wanted food.

This enemy wants to kill and steal and destroy you and me.

We’re told that he walks around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. He has a will for our lives. His destiny is Hell, and he wants to take as many with him as he can. Our bear was doing what bears do, looking for food. Our enemy is looking for souls.

Oh, that we would see the peril we are in every day and fight with all the fervor and fierceness that I used to fight for my children on that day.

Do you have children? This enemy wants them, you know.

The wondrous aspect of fighting the enemy of our souls is that we have a guaranteed victory. When we are ‘fessed up, and dressed in the armor:

Salvation girds our minds, we stand in the righteousness of Christ (and not our own), we are encompassed by truth, we have peace with God, faith is our shield, and we know how to wield the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God –

NO weapon formed against us shall prosper. The Bible says so.

We must believe this, and act as if it is so.

What’s more, we’re told that the gates of Hell will not prevail against us. I wonder: when was the last time you were attacked by a gate? This is not a defensive statement, rather it is for offense. WE storm the gates. On the other side are family and friends. They have been taken captive…they’re POWs. And they are OURS. We must fight for them.

In this battle, it does no good to attack or belittle the POWs for being captives. Our fight is not with them, for they are not the enemy. If we engage in a battle of the wits with them, we’re spinning our wheels. Having been taken by the enemy, they’ve been brainwashed. Let God sort out that bit, but for heaven’s sake, fight for their freedom.

This fight will take place in our prayer closets, not at the kitchen table, not on the phone, and certainly not in an e-mail.

Using Scripture, we can speak against the enemy. As we speak to our Father, it’s not to ask Him to please do something, rather it is to thank Him that He is faithful to do what He has said He will do. Acts 16:31 reads, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved, you and your household.” I remind the Lord of that promise. His arm is not so short that He cannot save. I thank Him that while nothing seems to have changed, I know that He is on the move to bring this promise to pass, and thank Him for the outcome!

We must not give up.

I’ve watched Jesus bring one person after another into the family as I’ve lifted them in prayer and stood in the gap and against the enemy. God’s promises are sure. Do we believe this?

Had I not fought that bear to save my children, who knows what would have happened. The stakes are much higher – eternal – if I fail to fight the enemy for their souls.

To Arms!!!


Praise Jesus!

Visit Lessons by Heart

Do Not Disturb!

Priorities are crucial to life. To take each activity and weigh its importance against others, then attend to them in their order of value can save us heartache, as I learned the hard way…

With all the self-righteous gusto of a “good” homeschool mom, I posted a note on both doors into our home. It stated,

“We value our study time and appreciate it when you do as well. Please do not interrupt us between the hours of 8 a.m. and 2 p.m.”

This was done primarily because of “inconsiderate” family members who would drop in, not understanding how their “quick” visit disrupted the rest of the day. We were unable to resume studies with the same enthusiasm once we were interrupted.

I hate to say this, but my mom was the greatest (okay, she was the only) violator of our study time. She frequently showed up during those hours because it was the only time she didn’t have her six-year-old great-granddaughter with her. (Mom was her guardian.)

I felt a “catch” in my spirit when I put up the signs. Every time I saw one of them, I sensed the Lord saying, “Take that down!” To obey His instruction seemed counter-productive. I ignored that small inner voice and left the notices in place.

By October, I couldn’t take the feeling of being disobedient anymore. Besides, my “polite” request was completely ignored by my Mom. She showed up several days each week.

Because my dad was out of town, she was left with a half-acre of oak leaves and acorns to clean up by herself. It felt wrong to keep our noses stuck in books when I knew she was trying to rake and dispose of the fall mess. (That year there were 50 trashcans full of acorns alone!) We opted to spend time giving her the help she needed, and let academics take back seat. Am I ever thankful.

How I wish I had those first two months to do over again…permitted my mom to drop in for a cup of coffee whenever she felt like it without feeling like she was a bother. Soon she wasn’t “interrupting” us anymore. She moved to heaven on March 5, 2005.

I learned a valuable lesson the hard way that year. Loved ones are infinitely more important than any amount of learning. Obedience, especially when it makes no logical sense, can save us a great deal of guilt, grief, and shame.

Don’t make the same mistake. As it is said: A word to the wise is sufficient.


Praise Jesus

Visit Lessons by Heart

What Do We Do With All The Food?

The cupboards were empty, so were the refrigerator and the freezer – except for the pictures of food I had taped inside each. There were pictures of boxes and cans around the walls of the pantry and the freezer, and photos of plated food in the fridge. “If you can see it, you can achieve it,” I’d heard, but that was several months ago. Nothing happened. No food “magically” appeared. They were still completely bare.

I was forbidden to tell anyone about our financial situation. Because of my former husband’s pride, we did not receive government assistance. We had a small business, but not much business sense. Consequently, the mailbox was stuffed with bills that could not be paid. After a while, I didn’t bother to collect the mail. When our small box filled, the postman moved all the envelopes to the package box. When he could stuff nothing more into that compartment, he put everything in a bin and brought it to our door.

“Do you want your mail? Or shall I return everything?” he asked. His voice was tinged with sarcasm, his look disdainful.

(It’s been almost 30 years since that era of my life, yet when my husband of 17 years asks me to stop so he can pick up the mail, my stomach still ties in knots!)

Where was I? Oh, yes. Wondering what I would feed my four children and husband.

About six months prior to this, I’d happened upon hundred-pound bags of dry pinto beans and of rice. They were very cheap, so I bought one of each. It was a good thing, because shortly after that we had very little money for groceries…milk, diapers, that was about all we could afford.

During all this time we ate beans and rice…rice and beans…beans without rice…and rice without beans. Fortunately, I had a well-stocked spice cabinet, and was able to present varying flavors of these two items. Unless we were invited to dine with someone, we ate beans and rice.

We did get some apples once. We were down to the last one. I’d planned to cut it into quarters and give each child a piece. To my horror, one of the kids spotted the apple and ate the entire thing! When I recall the tongue-lashing delivered for this “vile selfishness,” I feel such humiliation and embarrassment. The responsible child was probably eight years old at the time.

These were the hardest financial times I’d ever faced. I was a mental and emotional wreck, so confused about what was right and wrong. Being a “religious” person, now divorced and remarried, I believed that I was being punished for the sin of divorce. I did my best to keep a good attitude and be strong while I endured the “consequences.” Surely God’s wrath would be spent and “He” would move on to someone else. (Yes, this is what I believed God to be like. Oh, how I maligned His good name and character during that period of my life.)

I crumpled the empty bags and threw them in the trash. Panic and fear wrapped their ugly, cold fingers around my chest.

What am I going to feed my children?

I sensed the Lord ask if He could have a turn at feeding us. What else could I do? I was out of options. I accepted His offer.

Later that afternoon, there was a knock on the door. When I opened it, one of my neighbors was there. She had a problem and wanted to know if I could help her out.

“Our big freezer broke down. There is a ton of food that will go to waste. I’d rather give it away than throw it out. Do you have any room in your freezer?”

Let me move a few of the pictures around, I thought to myself. I could probably fit a “few” things in there!

“Yes, I have room for some food. Are you sure you don’t want any money for it?” I replied. Please say “no.”

“That won’t be necessary. I’m just happy to get rid of the stuff. Can you come help me carry the bags?”

I followed her to the garage. There she filled bags with meat, vegetables, and even ice cream! I was amazed.

For the next several months, this is how it went. A neighbor’s garden produced a bumper crop and they needed to find people who would take the extra vegetables off their hands. One hit a great meat sale, and didn’t have room for all they bought – so they gave it away. Chickens laid more eggs than could be sold. One person after another experienced a surplus of some sort and it ended up in my kitchen.

Most of these people weren’t neighbors, by the way. None were aware of our circumstances. We happened to be there when they needed to unload their “problematic” food!

I began to know God as my Provider. As time went on, the amount of stockpiled food decreased until the cupboards were, once again, empty. Because of my increased faith in the Lord, I would simply thank Him for the meal He would surely provide.

We did not miss a meal during that time.

We didn’t have an abundance; what I experienced was more like manna. Enough for the day’s needs, but nothing left over.

Those days are long behind me, but the lessons learned are still fresh in my mind. When I feel my faith sag a bit, I recall the various ways God took care of my family during those years. He used my difficult situations to demonstrate His love and tender care. Being slow to trust Him, the process took many years and various circumstances before I began to completely rely on Him.

God is the most patient of Teachers, for which I am truly grateful!

How have you experienced the goodness of the Lord? I’d love to hear your stories.

Visit Lessons by Heart

But God…

A cloud of pot smoke engulfed me as I stepped out of my bedroom. I rose late that morning, and missed the first “high” of the day.

Several people were on the couches, legs sprawled before them, heads leaned against the back of couches and recliners. Some of their heads lolled in my direction and they looked at me through puffy, barely focused eyes.

Slurred voices said, “Wow, man, that was awesome.” “This is so cool.” “Oh, baby, you missed some good weed.”

For the first time in a few months, I saw them…really saw them. The scene before me was pathetic.

What am I doing here? I asked myself. I’m more intelligent than this.

I returned to my room, gathered my few belongings, and left the house – for good.

How I came to live with that couple, I cannot say. I was eighteen years old; my marriage blown apart after just a few months. I didn’t want to go back to my parents’ home, and had nowhere to go.

I don’t know that I was invited. I just showed up with a friend to get high, and decided to stay.

I had no job, no car, no money, and (obviously) no sense.

The couple I dumped myself upon were drug dealers, so getting high was a several times per day event. The wife worked, and they had a two-year-old daughter. I assigned myself the job of “nanny,” and justified my presence in their home by saying that I was taking care of their kid, even though I didn’t do anything with or for her.

During my high school years, I had been a “good” kid. I was the vice president of our youth group, taught Bible studies in the library at my school during lunchtime, sang in the choir, read my Bible on a regular basis, and behaved myself.

I met my husband at a Bible college, and eagerly anticipated that we would live happily ever after…even though it had been less than three months between when we met and when we got married. Why my parents thought this was a good idea, I’ll never know.

Disillusionment set in when I discovered that he was not my savior – he wasn’t Prince Charming, either. The few months we were together were painful for us both. This was not the first time we separated, and wouldn’t be the last.

Suitcase in hand, I returned to our apartment. Having realized how stupid I looked when I was high or stoned, I gave up drugs and pot. (I didn’t know that I needed a recovery program to do so.)

When I turned twenty-one, I was excited. I could finally buy alcohol for myself. I was on my second marriage. That one turned out to be a real doozie, and I coped with it by drinking. Rum was cheap at that time – two dollars per bottle, making it an affordable habit. I would begin to drink at eight a.m. every day, and would polish off at least one “fifth” of rum – sometimes two. It was the only way I knew to cope with the pain in my life.

I had periods of being “dry,” and then go back to drinking every day again. This went on until I was in my late 20s. There were several times when the pain would become so overwhelming that I would drink to the point of blacking out. I didn’t know about alcohol poisoning then. Apparently those around me didn’t either. They’d just go behind me and clean up the messes I made, pour me into bed and leave me to sleep it off.

Sadly, I am a mean-mouthed drunk, and can verbally dismantle a human being in less than three minutes. I later found out that I did this whenever I was in the “black out” phase of a drinking bout. How I wish I could take back every word.

But God…

(How I love those words. They show up many times in my story. He relentlessly pursued me into some of the darkest and ugliest places you could imagine.)

…God was not content to leave me there. For whatever reason, I began to take my kids to Sunday School. I felt guilty when I dropped them off, so I began to attend as well.

One Sunday, I heard an announcement about a Christian recovery program they offered. There was a group for the addict, and for their co-dependents. The latter group seemed a little less threatening, so I began to attend their weekly meetings.

On a Thursday night, it was my turn to tell my story. I began to talk about my marriage and the abuse I endured. I excused it all, stating, “If I’d stayed in my first marriage, I wouldn’t have this bed to lie in.” I believed what I was enduring was my “punishment” for walking away from God, and that I just had to learn to endure with patience.

The women of the group were horrified by the things I told them, and pointed out that if we didn’t get away, someone was going to end up seriously hurt or dead.

I didn’t believe them for a long time,

but was certain that this marriage was “my cross to bear.”

Thankfully, those sweet women weren’t willing to let me stay in denial, nor to believe such mean lies about God. They helped me plan a way of escape.

It was during our exodus that God showed up in a powerful way. You can read about it in Fearful Flight. I had no idea that God ministers to us personally. I am still humbled by His gracious closeness during the next couple of years.

Not knowing that I needed a recovery program for my alcoholism, I trusted the Lord to lead me out of that trap. He did indeed set me free from my addictions.

That’s twice I’ve said that I didn’t go through recovery – either for my drug addiction or for alcoholism. That doesn’t mean that they don’t work, or aren’t necessary. Recovery programs offer something that I had to pick up on my own…and took twenty years to learn. I needed to be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and to learn healthy ways to cope with life’s stressors.

Although I was too proud to sign up for an 18 month recovery program, God has patiently and lovingly led me to counselors and reading material that helped me stay clean and sober. In fact, just this morning I giggled as I realized that He has me recording audio books for the mission’s recovery program. Some of the folks in recovery can’t read. Now they can listen and focus on the content instead of struggling to sound out the words – then try to remember what each sentence was about.

In the process, I’m getting the education I needed twenty plus years ago through books like, Staying Sober, The Genesis Process, and Boundaries. I can see that by avoiding classes I short-changed myself, and a transformed life took much longer. Jesus healed me from the need to default to drugs and alcohol; however, my thought processes still needed to be corrected. Too bad I was “too smart” to need anyone’s help to figure things out. 😦

But God…

…who loved me and gave His Son for me…

…loved me too much to let me continue in ignorance –

– He arranged for me to record the books as a “charitable act” so I could be transformed by the renewing of my mind.

Ya just gotta’ love a God who loves like that!

Visit Lessons by Heart